Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better

“Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better”.

This quote by Samuel Beckett, sported as a tattoo on the arm of Tennis great Stan Wawrinka, sets out the critical concept that we can choose the relationship we have with failure, rather than always being negatively affected by the prospect of failure.

A healthy attitude towards the role of failure for anyone in their pursuit of meaningful achievements can be game changing.

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Over the years, we’ve supported many people who’ve been successful and we’ve always helped them celebrate their own specific motivational drivers, rather than forcing them to be motivated in a particular way. This has led us to enjoy exploring the power of fear of failure and how to harness it with the same open mindedness that we explore the power of a desire to succeed and how to focus it.

It’s all about inspiring action

Whether you have a desire to succeed or a fear of failure, the important thing is that you have a fuel for action . Your drive to avoid unwanted things happening, or to make valued things happen will typically result in you committing to action, and that’s all that matters.

There’s huge amounts written on target setting about how to harness the power of the desired outcomes, but so little provided to give those fuelled by fear the same confidence to enjoy the motivational benefits of their personality bias!

If we were all taught how to ‘fail better’ from an early age, alongside being bombarded with the well meaning treatises on the power of goal setting, then we’d have a lot more people enjoying their pursuit of success fully powered by their personality rather than feeling held back by it.

Failing Better

The lack of information about how to fail better got us thinking about how we could fill the gap, and inspired by work with Olympic athletes, there’s a couple of simple ideas that we found really help.

  • If you want to fail better, then start by defining what failure actually means to you and what the specific failure is that you’re most motivated to achieve. We found that by asking this question you discover that the failure that is feared is seldom simply about not delivering a result. It’s usually about the fear of how someone might perceive you as a result of not achieving something and that’s usually coupled with a pretty clear understanding of what ‘failing to perform’ really looks and feels like.
  • If you want to fail better, then start thinking about the ways in which you can actively bring the failure about intentionally. Understanding how you’re actually in control of ‘producing the failure’ creates a much healthier relationship with the fear you’re experiencing and it’s a lot easier to redirect that fear into a helpful energy when you’ve accepted that you could bring about your own demise if you were so inclined. This “paradoxical intention” approach allows people to enjoy their fear and welcome it in a non-threatening way and we’ve seen it transform people’s outlooks to moments where the pressure to deliver is usually highest.

A powerful mix

For most people, there is a mix of desire to succeed and fear of failure, and when we start to look for the positive action that both can inspire, we’re able to enjoy their contrasting philosophies rather than be conflicted by it.

As William Shakespeare observed in Hamlet, “There is nothing such as good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” By embracing that enduring wisdom our motivations can always be a force for positive action and our pursuit of meaningful achievements can become all the more enjoyable as a result.