4 Steps To Understand Failure And Succeed At New Challenges

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Are you not making any headway in the goals you set a year ago — or more like, five years ago?

You’ve tried all the motivational and inspirational tricks in your arsenal, but you’re still not making any progress in your goals or in your life.

This may be because of a major roadblock that many people are confronted with but are not fully aware of: past failures.

How does learning from failure lead to success in new challenges?

Something happened in your past that you’d much rather forget and it's still haunting you. And every time you proceed with a new challenge, that bad experience rears its ugly head.

It reminds you of what happened, which has you backing down and retreating so you don’t experience that feeling of failure again.

RELATED: What You Need To Understand About Failing

Now, as much as you think that this ugly and atrocious event is locked down in a safe space and all traces are removed from social media, it still sits in waiting in your subconscious mind.

It waits for the perfect moment to reappear so you can’t freely succeed in future challenges.

Soon enough that defeated feeling turns into frustration. You’ve grown tired of the control this has on you and you’re looking for a way forward.

What’s the alternative to forgetting about past failures?

You hate to fail (who doesn't?!) and don’t want to be reminded of it, but what’s worse is that you remind yourself about your failures all the time. You can avoid external reminders but you can’t avoid your thoughts.

Forgetting about it and saying that it never happened is one strategy for dealing with past failures. But, you need a better one to untether yourself from that experience.

By working with a new strategy that has you acknowledging the past event, revisiting it, and then extracting the value from it, you can see failure in a whole new way.

Instead of a dreaded experience, it becomes a source of information, empowerment, and understanding — something you’ll no longer need to hide from.

Here are 4 steps to start learning from failure and understanding it so you can succeed at new challenges.

1. Revisit past failure.

Recall the event that's been resurfacing and causing you to reflect upon yourself in a negative way. This can be a poor grade on a test, getting fired from a job, or missing an opportunity that you deeply regret.

It can also be a much more serious incident where you hurt someone (physically or emotionally), made a bad judgment call that got you into trouble, or a decision you made that created a great loss for yourself or for others.

2. Disassociate yourself from the event.

To disassociate means to remove yourself from the situation, as though you are a stranger looking at the event from afar. You're no longer personally engaged.

A good way to do this is to imagine yourself at the movie theater. You’re sitting in one of the viewing seats watching the event unfold on the screen. You’re observing the actors acting out the memory you’ve created of this event.

If this memory contains deep-rooted emotions and the event was very traumatic, you’ll need to move yourself another layer back. Observe the person in the viewing seats watching the movie.

It's best to have a professional or a close friend nearby to assist you. Since opening old wounds can have you feeling like you’re reliving the experience, you need someone who will interrupt that connection, if needed.

As you’re watching this memory unfold, look at what's really going on. Observe how the characters are interacting and what their roles are. Be compassionate and empathetic to the actors and the situation.

3. Consider the value of it.

Once you’ve viewed the movie, sit back and reflect. Be the movie critic and evaluate the experience.

What are the takeaways? Why did the actors get into this situation in the first place? What is it that they can learn from it? How could they have acted it out better? And what didn’t make sense, or was out of character?

Some thoughts that might have come up is that the actors didn’t have all the information to make the best decision. They did the best they could with the skill set they had. And there were other factors at play that made matters worse.

There was a misunderstanding of other people’s intentions. Under the circumstances, they did the best they could.

4. Show appreciation for the lesson this has taught you.

There are times when learning the hard way is the only way, and it takes an event such as this to make you see the lesson you need to learn. Once you extract the value from it, show appreciation for what you just learned.

Sometimes the lesson can be that it’s OK to be wrong or that asking for help is a show of strength, not weakness. It can also be that you need to show yourself more compassion or show others forgiveness.

RELATED: Why It's Better To Be A Failure At Something You Love

Why do you see past events as failures?

If you think about it, any event from the past is reflected upon in the way that you perceive that event. When you think of a failure or traumatic situation, the same is true.

Past events become memories that are loaded with emotions and feelings you experienced at that time. The greater the feeling and the emotion, the stronger the memory.

The only time an event is real and concrete is if it’s happening right now. You tend to associate a memory as being real because those emotions and feelings you attach to it are so strong.

As you connect more deeply to that experience, you glue that event to your identity. It represents you and becomes you. Hence, you feel like a failure.

Why do past failures continue to ruin your chances of success?

You don’t experience failure or success overnight. There are small instances that build up to joyful experiences or the doozies you wish to forget. But it’s what you focus on that strengthens the experience.

If you keep focusing on information that supports the way you view yourself, then you will believe this is true.

You look for evidence to support your beliefs and ignore the information that will prove you wrong. You do this because you want to be right about what your beliefs are telling you.

But, in order to take the important steps mentioned above, you need to consider that the beliefs you held onto for so long are actually inaccurate.

Like the old adage says, "You learn more from failure than from success."

So, if you’ve grown tired of the ghosts from failures of the past, it’s time to expose them for what they really are.

As John O’Connor and John Seymour put it in their book "Introducing NLP," "Failure is a way of describing a result you did not want.” It’s also something that you can learn much from.

You can choose to see failure as a mark on your identity, or you can take that experience and change it into a learning opportunity. Carrying around the baggage only drags you down and prevents you from achieving success and true happiness.

There will be a time when your baggage gets to be too heavy to carry around and you'll want to take care of it before it takes you down with it.

RELATED: Why You Need To Stop Letting The Voice In Your Head Get The Best Of You

Christine Hourd is a certified success and leadership coach located in Calgary, Alberta. She works with professionals, in person or online, to reduce the obstacles getting in the way of their success. Book your first appointment to discuss your goals.