Have you ever felt stuck? I think most of us know what that feels like: a mysterious force that keeps us from moving forward in life and business. At its worse, it can be all-consuming, as though this unmovable, unshakeable, unwanted energy takes on a life of its own.
It’s common for entrepreneurs to experience some level of stuckness, as I call it—especially when things don’t go as you’d intended. In the face of failure you may feel entirely out of control, but in even the most frightening of circumstances you still have the ability to choose how to respond. Choosing a healthy response, rather than reacting from a place of fear, places you squarely back in the saddle. And it’s easier than you may believe.
Growing up, my twin daughters were exceptional equestrians. Over the years they trained to jump their horses over obstacle after obstacle, at a speed that no mother can appreciate. The older and more skilled the girls got, the larger the obstacles became.
It’s easy to lose control whilst sitting on the back of a twelve-hundred pound horse, but they rarely did. That’s because they learned early on that to master the sport, they must master their own confidence. They learned that a sudden reaction would only lead to disaster. Whether maneuvering a horse over obstacles or changing direction entirely, they had to respond from a place of confidence, rather than react from a place of fear.
Changing direction on horseback all begins with a subtle shift; the rider only needs to turn her head in the direction that she wants her horse to go. With this action, the horse picks up an almost imperceptible shift in its rider’s body weight and complies with her wishes.
Life is much the same. When you’re stuck you may feel out of control, but you can take back the reins by making a few subtle shifts in the way you think.
As we enter into our traditional spring cleaning season, do a little spring cleaning inside of your head too. Learn to respond, rather than react. Clear the cobwebs that past failure and regret have left behind. Learn to avoid these common reactions to failure, this is certain to get you unstuck and moving forward once again.
1. Assuming that failing is the opposite of success
Arianna Huffington failed to sell her second novel--but she jumped back into the author’s seat anyway. She says her mother reminded her that “failure is not the opposite of success; it's a steppingstone to success.” This is an important mindset shift to make: Remember that each time you fail, you learn something. Each time you fail, you gain experience. And each time you fail, you come away with tools that you can use to be successful in the future.
2. Pretending that everything is fine
There's a lot of advice out there suggesting that you maintain a positive attitude in the face of impending doom. While it's crucial to stay positive, don't conflate that with pretending that nothing is wrong! It's easy to carry on as if everything is fine in the interest of positivity–and that can blind you to the tactics that you might need to take to avoid failure. Ben Lerer, founder of Thrillist.com, says that a crucial strategy is to admit failure in order to move forward. He doesn’t waste time when he sees that something isn’t working well. He does his best to face the fact as early as possible that an approach is failing and works to resolve the situation without letting it drag on. You need to admit that something is wrong before you can make it better.
When people fail it often embeds an unconscious fear of future failure in their minds--and that can lead to self-sabotage. When you're afraid to fail, you’ll take fewer risks and chances; therefore, have fewer opportunities for success. You might make excuses for why you're not taking chances. To move forward, you need to acknowledge your fear--and remember that innovation and success are all about risks, especially those of an emotional nature.
4. Dismissing your disappointment
It's natural for self-doubt and disappointment to accompany failure. And why shouldn't they? Failure is hard and disappointing. It can make you question your goals and strategies. But simply trying to feel better without honoring those feelings of doubt and disappointment will only worsen them and keep you stuck for a longer period of time. And, in addition to the learning opportunity that failure offers, there is another upside: failure can build your character, help you to be more empathic toward others, and make you a better communicator--and, thus, better at connecting with people. This growth will help you to build your business and pave the way to success.
So live with your failure; feel bad about it, that’s ok—for a while. Then remember that even the most subtle shift will point you in an entirely new direction—toward success!