Mindset Author Carol Dweck Shares Five Strategies for Turning Failure Into a Positive Experience
Failure is inevitable—you’re only human, after all. But the meaning you make of failure can either propel you toward ultimate success or hold you back.
In one study, researchers found that when dieters believed they had “ruined” their diet by eating pizza, they ate 50% more cookies afterward than a control group.
On the flip side, in another study, math students who viewed their mistakes as part of the learning process increased their efforts—and prevailed.
The difference is all in how you view and respond to failure. Keep reading to learn five strategies that will help you nail the fail!
1. Spend Time Reflecting
When you make a mistake or encounter a setback, take some time to frame the experience as a stepping stone—not a defeat.
As you reflect, avoid casting judgment on yourself. Remember that everyone makes mistakes. Keep your thoughts focused on what happened, why it didn’t work out, and how you can create different results next time—instead of veering into self-reproach.
Mindset author Carol Dweck says, “Picture your brain forming new connections as you meet the challenge and learn. Keep on going.”
2. Identify Setbacks
Ask yourself what might have caused this failure. Was it a lack of time or effort? Inexperience or poor preparation? An unexpected conflict that diverted your attention? Identify obstacles, then brainstorm workarounds. Remember that the path to success is rarely straight and narrow. When you know to expect a few detours along the way, you’re more likely to stay the course.
3. Embrace Constructive Criticism
Through her research, Dweck discovered that successful individuals frame constructive feedback as an opportunity to grow—instead of a reason to shut down. She says, “True self-confidence is the courage to be open—to welcome change and new ideas regardless of their source.”
Instead of retreating from criticism after a failure, practice turning toward the feedback. Often, you may find just the information you need to try again with better results. And with time, you may even begin to crave the usefulness of constructive feedback!
4. Learn From the Success of Others
Watching someone else succeed after you’ve failed can be painful. But it doesn’t have to throw you off your goal. Instead of wallowing in jealousy or resentment, try to see that person’s achievements as a learning opportunity. Don’t get caught up in blanket character statements like, “Well, she’s just a better/luckier/smarter person than I am.”
Instead, analyze their accomplishments for information you can use to achieve your own. Identify the who, what, where, when, and why of their success. As you study their path to victory, make notes of any concrete strategies you could employ in your journey.
5. Try Again—and Again
Dweck reminds readers that ability and talent only take a person so far. Instead, she says, “Effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.”
Adopt the mindset that reaching your goals might take a few tries—which means you’ll also experience a few failures. The trick is to persevere with grit and determination, with the mindset that failure can be a regular part of the process.
Think about one of your most recent setbacks. How could you nail that fail by using one of Dweck’s strategies? Share your insights with us on Twitter using #Mindset.