In a society which so often demands perfection – the perfect body, the perfect career, the perfect social life – failure is all too often undervalued. After all, when striving to be the best, is there really any room for failure? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Whether it’s in your personal life, in the board room, or on the field of play, mistakes are not only part of the game, they play a crucial role in allowing you to reach your full potential.

Accepting and identifying your mistakes

The first step to redefining your relationship with failure is to identify where you’re going wrong. Learn to recognize your own weakness and accept that you’re not perfect, but who is?Accepting feedback and advice is key to transforming your mistakes into meaningful learning exchanges. Be open and honest with yourself and others in order to learn how to grow.

Look at mistakes as being part of a training process and learn to accept failure as part of a larger and more positive developmental experience. Part of striving to be the best means trying out new things, testing your own limits, and discovering a way forward. After all, you can only learn how to hit the perfect serve once you’ve got it wrong a couple of times.

The same applies to your professional career from job interviews, to networking, to leadership capabilities: without understanding, embracing and testing your shortcomings, you will never learn how to improve. So, while the perfectionist within you might disagree, the truth is, mistakes cannot be avoided and reducing error only comes when you are able to acknowledge and recognize your mistakes.

Woman lends support to friend while training in a gym.
Accept failure and accept support on your path to success.

Embrace the athlete mindset

Look at the world’s top athletes for inspiration: understanding that practice, patience and perseverance are what make great athletes will help you see that failure is part of the roadmap to success. Skills and confidence don’t just appear out of nowhere; they take time to develop and experiencing failure is part of the course.

Whether they are pushing themselves on match day, or debriefing on a training day, making mistakes and the opportunities this presents is key to the development of any athlete… and that includes you.

According to sports psychologist and Psychology Consultant for the Great Britain Rowing Team, Chris Shambrook, high performers find these opportunities by understanding the balance between setbacks and perfection.

Chris believes that once an athlete understands this balance it’s easier to focus on reducing the rate of mistakes. In turn, this shows that you’re improving and so your relationship with making mistakes becomes more productive.

Two women train together in the gym, using box to complete step-ups.
Finding the balance between testing your limits and reducing errors is key to your progress.

Building strength through weakness

Mistakes can happen away from the training ground and at a time when you’re expected to perform. Having the confidence to know you can turn your game around – especially in high-pressure scenarios – is not always simple. But if we take our sporting stars as lifestyle role models, we can see that recovering and moving on from mistakes is all about perspective.

It’s about understanding that one mistake should not define the rest of the game, or the rest of your career. Perspective is about realizing that even in most high-pressure situation failure should never stop you from coming back, trying again and improving on your performance. Ultimately, it’s not the mistakes you make that define you, it’s how you choose to deal with and move forward from failure which will affect your future success.

Woman training in a gym, she is sprinting on the spot using high knees.
Understand that it is always possible to come back and improve after making a mistake.

In the end, fear of failure is more harmful than failure itself and psychologically there is nothing more debilitating for an athlete – or anyone for that matter – to be stuck in the past, holding on to mistakes and limiting their present and future performance because they are afraid to fail.

So, as strange as it might seem, take gratification in the process of making mistakes and use the experience as a springboard to opportunity and success.


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