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3 Tips to Purposeful Failure

Posted May 12, 2014 by Belinda Chiu in On the Ladder

We have often been told to avoid the F word.


For many of us Career Girls, we have been groomed for success and achievement. We have been told to work twice as hard to be seen as credible competitors in a world dominated by men. We are praised for our effort and cheered when we win.

We are told that if we mess up, we may lose our credibility. And losing credibility would mean that others don’t take us seriously and lost opportunities for promotions and projects. Losing credibility as women, in particular, would mean that we just not Good Enough.

We hate to lose.

Yet as any successful entrepreneur or will attest, failure is the only path towards success. Losing not only builds resilience and character, but it is also the necessary ingredient for growth. As Carol Dwerk, author of Mindset, argues, keeping a growth perspective allows us to see every experience as an experiment and every failure as an opportunity. When we give ourselves permission to fail, we are no longer bound by external expectations or definitions of success. We identity our own goals and take risks to achieve them. We begin to understand that our credibility is not as fragile as we originally feared — that one mistake would cause our house of cards to tumble. Rather, our credibility is grounded in our skills, experiences, and efforts and cannot be so easily destroyed.

When we view our failures as purposeful steps towards our growth, we no longer need to worry that we are not Good Enough. Rather, we can see that every mistake we make only builds our confidence and credibility because are more than Good Enough. We are Enough.

  1. Stop trying to win — In the race towards success, we are told that we have to be first or be nothing at all. We cannot make even one mistake or else someone else will win. When we stop trying to always win, we remove ourselves from the treadmill of meaningless competitions that simply take up our time and energy. We also learn to embrace more opportunities and take risks because we are no longer obsessed with only winning, but rather, with living and learning.
  2.  Experiment with experiences — We often hide from new experiences and opportunities because of the fear of failure. We don’t push ourselves because we feel unprepared or unqualified. While it’s important to be mindful of our strengths and development needs, it is as important to view every experience not as a zero-sum game, but as an experiment, where failure is not only acceptable, but embraced.
  3. Seek out mistakes– It seems counterintuitive to seek out ways to make mistakes when we have been groomed to be perfect. We often try to hide our mistakes in fear of someone else “finding out.” Yet when we purposefully seek out ways to goof up, we start to identify areas of growth and risk taking. We try things we wouldn’t have otherwise, and we laugh at ourselves when we trip up. Being willing to find and admit our mistakes not only make us more authentic, but also offers us opportunities to learn and succeed.

About the Author

Belinda Chiu

Dr. Belinda Chiu is a social change strategist, coach, and facilitator. Like you, she believes that everyone has the transformational ability to reach her potential and beyond. Dr. Chiu incorporates a practice of mindfulness to help individuals harness their natural strengths, achieve results, and carve their own paths towards professional fulfillment. For more tips, subscribe to the monthly newsletter, Why Not? on www.hummingbirdrcc.com or follow on @hummingbirdrcc.