How to Fail

The value of failing is often underestimated. Whether it’s a child learning to tie their own shoe or a teen trying a new sport, failure is unavoidable. If done right, failure can be incredibly valuable but when we fail and become discouraged it can lead to some pretty negative outcomes. Don’t try to avoid failure, don’t try to minimize failure, but open up to it because we know that it’s worth it. Here are some ways to ensure we’re shifting our mindset to be successful at failing:
  • Anticipate and talk about the fact that we will likely fail 50 times before we succeed. That we will get many No’s before the first Yes. Failing is beautiful because it’s proof that we’re trying.
  • Teach your kids how a fail with grace and learn from it. Nothings worse than a sore loser. Focusing on failing as practice to get better at something. Highlight things that they are doing well even if all the pieces aren’t coming together yet.
  • Don’t wait until you can be successful at something to try it because we don’t get better at something magically. I can’t tell you how many times I hear kids say “I’m no good at drawing or I don’t know how to run track so I could never be on the team.” If we waited until we were good at these things (without practicing) we’d be waiting forever. It’s better to try and fail to run a 7 minute mile every day for a month because that’s how we get to that thirty first day when we do run a 7 minute mile.
  • Stop worrying about stuff and try it and fail instead because you’ll learn a lot more from the experience of failing than you could ever anticipate just thinking about it. If your child tends to anticipate all of the ways in which something could go wrong, then they’ll never talk themselves in to trying. Encourage them to act on their goals, test out their fears and see if they hold true. Most of the time we will get feedback such as “It wasn’t as bad as I’d thought it would be”.
  • Know that it won’t feel good and know that it will feel uncomfortable and that that’s OK! If we feel bad about feeling bad and uncomfortable it makes it worse, so if we feel OK about feeling uncomfortable and failing, it’s not that bad. (That’s a bit of a brain teaser but it’s true)
  • The worst part about failure is our thoughts that go along with it. “I’m no good”, “I should just give up”, “I knew I was gonna suck at this”. If we take away those negative thoughts and we embrace failure as an opportunity and a learning experience it becomes easier. “This is just the beginning” “I knew I would need more practice”, “I’m going to get better at it”.
When we accept failure and worry as a part of life we don’t try to steer away from it and we can embrace the other aspects that come along with it. Dr. Angela

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