Has a traumatizing failure hit you lately? The kind of failure you can’t help but obsess about. One that plays back constantly in your mind.
Well, guess what? Everyone experiences a sour failure from time to time, including me. While working with accountability partners, we often get upset when we don’t reach a goal. In that situation, the best antidote is to use reframing to get the sting out of our apparent failure.
Over the years, I’ve collected many mental models to do just that. I like to call them “mental soothing balms”. And here’s a list of my favorite ones…
1. The pearl behind the shadows. If it works the first time, it’s fine. But it won’t teach you much. When you fail, you get more insights. Which makes you more likely to succeed in the long run.
2. The map is not the field. What you plan is not the same as what you find in the pathway. There are unexpected obstacles and we are often too optimistic about them. So yes, it can take longer than expected to go from point A to point B.
3. Your failures don’t define you. You are not your failures. Some people might judge you because of them. But the ones who genuinely care for you will always love you, whatever the outcomes.
4. Path problems and insight problems. Path problems are logical, step-by-step problems. Insight problems depend on a creative breakthrough. You may think you didn’t advance on a task, but some insight is slowly incubating in your mind. Your breakthrough might be around the corner!
5. Just an experiment. Think of your task as an experiment. The goal was not to succeed but to collect information. There is no failure or success, just data. And now that you learned from this experiment, you are better equipped for the next one!
6. If it’s hard for you, it’s hard for others. Your difficulties mean you have picked a problem worth solving. If you persevere, you will end up with a tremendous competitive edge.
7. Black and white thinking. Thinking about an outcome as a failure or success is binary thinking. In reality, many tasks fall in the middle. Try to let go of your perfectionism and recognize the progress you’ve made.
8. Finite and infinite games. Ok, maybe you lost one game. But you didn’t lose the overall game of life. Tomorrow is another day. And you will have many other occasions to shine.
9. Focus on the practice, not the performance. For most of his infancy, a toddler fails at standing on their feet. And then their efforts pay off. Just think about the baby falling and falling again with a big smile. Can you adopt the same attitude?
10. A million opportunities. So you got rejected by your dream company and feel like a failure? Unfortunately, we often fall in love with what is in front of us and are blind to the other fantastic opportunities in our reach. Don’t worry, other *incredible* opportunities will come your way.
11. The gut to do it. Ok, maybe you failed big time in front of many people and feel ashamed by it. But at least you showed up. That’s courageous! You can be proud of it. Boldness is the best way to make sure regrets don’t haunt you when you grow older.
Yes, experiencing failure is hard. But it’s what makes you learn and grow. Next time you feel down over a goal you did not reach, use this list to look at it from a different angle. It will act as a soothing balm in your mind.
It’s also great to support your accountability buddy or comfort your friends and family members.