Train yourself to quickly recover from failure and disappointment.
Get over it! No, really, get over it, and as quickly as possible.
We all know that we learn the most from failure and that to really succeed, we’ll fail- many times along the way. All the while, learning and growing. This (try->fail->learn->grow) cycle, while critical to our growth, can also be lengthy and sometimes quite painful.
Recovering from failure and disappointment is no small feat and can take time. And sometimes it can be downright paralyzing, with the potential to set us back for quite some time.
But what if you could significantly speed up the process of dealing and then learning from failure and disappointment? How much more potential could we achieve if we cut that cycle down by half or even more?
Anticipate failure and disappointment to accelerate learning and personal growth. You’ll find it’s actually quite simple to do once you begin to write a “response script”.
I began experimenting with this hack shortly after my son was born. I noticed that with all of the stress and demand on my time and emotions, I was easily flustered and frequently disappointed by seemingly very small things (like my husband not ordering the right meal for take out- clearly sabotage. Yeah, early motherhood is a trip). I realized I could significantly buffer my emotional reactions by simply predicting disappointment and failure in a productive way.
This seems a bit dark, and dangerously close to setting myself up for a self-fulfilling prophesy, but I can attest to the positive results. I somehow relieved myself of my emotional reaction in the moment, by recognizing opportunities for potential disappointment or failure and quickly walking myself through potential outcomes and then script subsequent “ideal” reactions.
I found I could run though my potential emotional response AND in a much more neutral way, UNASSIGN blame or causation.
I bought myself time in a neutral space, to deal with the emotions of failure and disappointment before the opportunity arose.
So, what is a “response script”?
Imagine you’ve interviewed with an amazing company, you absolutely love it- it’s THE perfect job for you. You think your second interview with the director went really well and hope to hear from the recruiter soon.
Success here is being offered the position. Failure is not getting the job. I think we can all agree this is pretty obvious.
But it is? We’re not fortune tellers and It’s not my job to try to convince you that everything happens for a reason (when one door closes, another opens)- although I do buy into to those particular cliché’s. My point is that you don’t have to be an eternal optimist for this hack to be really effective for you.
So, a “response script” here might look like this.
“I’m excited about this position and it will be a huge opportunity for me if I get it, and it’s one of many potential outcomes and opportunities in my career. I’ve worked hard towards this particular outcome and it will be well deserved if I’m offered the job. It’s possible however that I will not be offered the position or I won’t be made an offer that I feel is acceptable.
In this first part of the script, you’ve acknowledged that your desired outcome (expectation) is one of a number of outcomes.
“How will I feel if this isn’t the outcome I want? Does it make sense for me to explore reasons now for why I might not be offered the position without diminishing my hard work and worth?” It’s possible that there is another candidate who is simply a better fit for their team. It’s possible that because of some politics on their team, they’ve selected another candidate. It’s possible that they will make me a lowball offer or that my expectations are not in alignment with theirs.”
Next, you start to explore if it’s productive to explore the potential outcomes you can think of.
“If I think about each potential outcome, can I walk myself through how I will initially feel and react? Can I come up with reasonable explanations for those outcomes that don’t place blame on myself or someone else? Their team has a very difficult decision to make and I’m probably not aware of all of their constraints and requirements. I can also see that this role requires a great deal of strategy experience and if I’m honest with myself, I haven’t had that much exposure to it.”
Finally, explore what you can potentially learn from not getting your desired outcome.
“If I don’t achieve my desired outcome, I’ll definitely be disappointed, but I’ll remind myself that this is simply ONE opportunity path, and if I continue to grow myself, there will be many opportunities. This experience has given me some valuable insights that I plan to use as I move forward. I have a much better understanding now of what type of company I’m looking to work for and what experience I could gain to make myself a better fit.”
WHY IT WORKS
Did you know that we can’t process strong emotions AND begin to learn and grow from our experiences? They require separation and by allowing yourself time to experience a “theoretical” emotion ahead of the actual experience, you can significantly buffer that strong emotional reaction and speed up the amount of time it takes to get to that critical key learning.
Feelings of failure & disappointment are both dependent on our expectations of an ideal outcome. We often fixate our expectations on ONE outcome- deemed by us as success at that point in time. Look back in your life at a time where you failed (didn’t get the job or promotion, were dumped, you get the idea). Do you still see it as a failure? Or did some pretty other pretty cool things happen that might not have, had you “succeeded” then?
When you broaden your expectations to include a number of viable, broader outlook results, you can more objectively deal with the emotions you will encounter at the moment of the actual outcome.
We also accelerate our learning because we prime ourselves to start the process ahead of the outcome. The additional bonus here is that you are allowing yourself to explore potential personal growth areas even if you achieve your desired outcome, whereas you likely would not have without this exercise.
HOW TO MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU
My suggestion- start with managing failure’s little siblings, disappointment & frustration. Once we learn to emotionally mitigate small disappointments or frustrations, managing and significantly growing from the big ones will become much easier- and faster!
Start where disappointment is sure to strike with regularity- family. Ok, there is a little tongue-in-cheek here, but it’s also true and the best place to start making some fast progress. Think of the times you feel disappointed or frustrated with family, is there a pattern, is it about the same things over and over again?
Another personal (lose my mind) example: Kids getting dressed in the morning. If you have a child in your care whose responsibility it is to prepare themselves in the morning by adorning themselves with appropriate clothing before embarking out the front door, while also having managed to consume some sort of nourishment- you understand this universal frustration.
Ok, this is a very short exercise. At the moment you request for the FIRST time, this clearly unreasonable task, close your eyes and:
- List the likely disappointments / frustrations along with the ideal outcome (I won’t be heard, I’ll have to ask 5 times, they’ll come out in a bathing suit and cape, they’ll get dressed when I ask and we’ll make it out the door with time to spare).
- React in your head a little right now to every potential outcome. I love how as a parent, I can lose my mind every time I’m frustrated at the same thing over and over again- why? Because it’s impossible to learn from an experience WHILE we’re feeling the emotions associated.
- Decide right now how you’ll REACT. I’m not going to be surprised now, I’ve already predicted this potential outcome, so what am I going to do about it? I’ve taken the edge off of my initial reaction- so how can I focus on making this a learning experience for both of us?
This process works really well for things that we can predict some amount of disappointment / frustration (others “failure”) or personal failure with and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can do it once you’ve tested it out a few times.
P.S. For my Innovator friends, I also challenge you to imagine applying this concept to your iteration process…tell me how you think this could apply.