Failing with Grace: Learning from Our Mistakes

by Karen Keller, Ph.D.

The graceful swan.

We’ve all been there. We’ve spent countless hours on a
project or report only to have it fail miserably. It can be completely
demotivating as well as humiliating, but you don’t have to let it negatively affect the way you work in the weeks to come. Even in these modern times, women are still under more pressure to perform than their male counterparts and a failure can really take the wind out of your sails. But it doesn’t have to.

You see, I believe that within every failure, there is at least one, if not many, lessons to be learned. When I make a mistake, I take the time to dissect what went wrong and try to figure out what I can do better in the future. If we never had any failures or made any mistakes, we would never be given the chance to grow and evolve as a business woman. The next time you experience failure, take the time to analyze it and figure out what lessons you can take away from it.

Analysis Step #1: Get it down on paper.

The best way to start analyzing your failure is to document the entire process so that you can see the areas where mistakes may have been made. Writing the process out from inception to completion, whether on a sheet of paper, a whiteboard or your computer, will help you to visualize the process. It doesn’t have to be anything pretty since this is likely for your eyes only. Circle or mark the steps where you think there were errors.

Analysis Step #2: Delve deeper into mistakes.

Now that you’ve marked the areas that need some work, go back to each one of those areas and really scrutinize the process. Again, write
out where mistakes were made and what they were.

Analysis Step #3: Propose solutions.

For each error that you found in the report or project, propose three solutions that would have changed the outcome of that particular
misstep. When you propose more than one solution, you give yourself options, think outside of the box and train your brain to look at different avenues rather than get pigeon holed into one path.

Analysis Step #4: Implement changes.

If you have the chance to rewrite your report or work on your project again, come at it with a sense f learning and keep an open mind.
Repeat the steps that worked in the past and, for the steps that didn’t work as well, use one or more of the solutions that you proposed in the previous steps. When you approach your project critically and without criticism, you are very likely to take a failure and turn it into a success.

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