F is for Failure. How to embrace failure and ultimately achieve your goals. This post is part of our blog series, The A to Z of Being Babyproof, a celebration of the attitudes and behaviours it takes to balance career and family – because “babyproof” is not a destination, it’s a blueprint for having it all and making it work.


If you’ve already succumbed to a comforting glass of wine after enthusiastically embarking upon dry January, or let slide those good intentions to get to the gym every morning at 6am, you, along with millions of others, might be experiencing that sinking feeling of disappointment and self-loathing commonly known as failure. So many of us go through it at this time of year and it can sometimes be difficult not to let that feeling impact on our lives and wider self-esteem.


Last week on the blog we started our series of pieces on failure by exploring the reasons to use these unsettling feelings as dynamic, educational and motivating forces instead of negative ones.  That’s easier said than done I know, so, this week, we are looking at tips and techniques to help you embrace failure and learn from your mistakes so that you can ultimately achieve your goals.


how to embrace failure


How to embrace failure:


  • Learn to let go of your negative perceptions about failure. Try to see each failure for what it really is; a situation that didn’t pan out, a task that didn’t go as planned, an obstacle that prevented you from succeeding at a particular job, or perhaps a lack of thorough preparation on your part. Every mistake or failure is a finite and definable entity – not some deep seated overarching measure of your general self-worth and success as a person. That comes from your ability to overcome challenges, to be resilient, and to keep going in pursuit of your goals despite adversity. Failures are small moments in a lifetime of experiences. By seeing them as snapshots in time, they become less powerfully negative.


  • Utilise failure as a learning experience. Review your failures to find out what your strengths and weaknesses are and draw on that information wisely. Even if the ‘blame’ for a particular failure lies squarely with you – evaluate what and why things went wrong. Perhaps there are some things you have identified that you are not so good at, but it categorically doesn’t mean you’re bad at everything! Look for the positives and focus on what you did well – as well as what you didn’t. In future challenges, learn how to minimise the effects of your weaknesses and compensate by making the most of your (undoubtedly considerable) talents.


how to embrace failure


  • Look to others for support and advice. No man (or woman) is an island. It is easy for negative feelings about your abilities and self-worth to escalate if you keep your failures and mistakes to yourself. Find people you trust, who care about you and who can offer valuable perspective and objectivity. Everyone experiences failure at some point in their lives and sharing experiences with others not only lessens the burden but also neutralises the power of the ‘fear’ of failing. If you take comfort and strength from others, you might even be able to find humour in failure – fallibility is a very human and connective trait.


  • Renounce perfection. If you seek perfection in everything you do, you will always view failure negatively. And what’s more, you will be setting yourself up to fail before you’ve even started. No-one is perfect and no-one can do everything, so why are you putting yourself under so much pressure? Except in a few specialised circumstances like surgery or air traffic control (!) perfection is rarely necessary to do well enough in your work (or family life) – and even in those critical jobs there are checks and procedures in place to mitigate any human errors that may occur. Mistakes are part of human existence – if you accept your limitations and understand that there is only so much you can control and change in any given situation, you will learn to view failure much more objectively and with much less fear.


  • Turn your mistakes into motivation. Instead of viewing failure as disappointing or humiliating, use that energy to invigorate you. Perhaps it could make you work harder, or smarter, to achieve your goals in the future? Think about how you have felt when you have overcome challenges before and use those feelings to inspire you and to give you the strength to try again.


  • Remember that there’s no success without failure. The fear of failing can prevent you from taking action, but without taking action, you will never achieve your goals. If you live your life passively and wait for things to happen to you, you are not in control of the direction that your life will take. Sure – you won’t ‘fail’ and nothing will be your fault – but it is highly unlikely that you will achieve your ambitions by the force of sheer good luck. Find successful role models you admire and think about how many failures they have experienced on their way to ultimate success. Successful people employ perspective, a positive mindset and manage to embrace their failures to give them strength, wisdom and motivation. They aren’t super heroes, or chosen ones – they don’t ‘fail’ any less frequently than the rest of us. The difference is that they’re resilient, tenacious and learn from their mistakes. So take heart. If they can do it, you can do it too. Good luck for the rest of January – and beyond!



Share your experiences in our LinkedIn and Facebook groups. You can also register your interest in our Babyproof Your Career online course – new for 2018!



how to embrace failureCaroline Flanagan is a Keynote Speaker, Babyproof Coach and Author of Babyproof Your Career, The Secret to Balancing Work and Family so you can Enjoy It All. Caroline believes passionately in the dream of having it all, and founded Babyproof Your Life to train and prepare ambitious career women for the marathon of working parenthood so they can find their own way to #enjoyitall and #makeitwork. You can reach Caroline at caroline@babyproofyourlife.com