We've all had our moments of defeat. We've been embarrassed, ashamed, disappointed. Whether this is in athletic competition, work life, home life, dietary goals - whatever. There has been one time (or many in my case) where we have failed. The difference? Failing can help you win - or improve - for the next time. Let me explain.
When I used to compete in triathlons, I never placed. Not once! But that's OK. I always was able to get a results report afterward to see where I could improve and then compare for the next race. How long did I take transitioning from the swim to the bike? How can I narrow that window? Why was my swim too long compared to my predicted time? Did I stay out of the crowd of other swimmers, or did I try and fight them out?
All of this information helped me plan, prepare, and change strategy for the next time. Each year I improved in a couple areas! Wonderful!
Set Out to Fail
When it comes to weight-lifting, which is my favorite form of training, I set out to fail every time I go to the gym. Let me explain.
I cannot get stronger without failure. Before I head into my workout, I look at my journal to see how many reps and sets I made at what weight for each type of lift I am assigned in my workout from the previous attempt. I then calculate what I think I can increase weight or repetitions at, and write it down as a goal. That way I have a plan when I arrive at the gym.
For example, I plan for leg day based on the amounts of weight I managed to push from the previous week. If I made all my lifts successfully, then the next time I aim for a 5 lbs increase.
Why? Let’s take squats for example. The week before I did 6 sets of 10 at 110 lbs. This week I wanted to try 115 lbs with the same amount of reps and sets. Well, it did not happen. I got a couple of reps in at 115, and then I had to drop the weight (called a drop-set) because I couldn't handle the weight past a couple of reps with good form. Doh! But that's OK! Those couple of reps were more weight than I attempted the week before. I just went on with 110 and did each set till failure. When leg day comes around next week, I will try again for 115. This is how I approach each type of lift. Eventually, I will get stronger, and bust through to a new weight attempt.
The same can be applied at work. That's why we have performance reports. What can be improved on? Where can I learn more? What opportunities do I have for growth? Or, have I outgrown this profession and want/need a challenge? Am I looking to fail so that I can learn something?
Relationships, how we communicate, all of it can be improved by failing. Not necessarily intentional. I think we strive for perfection, and when things do not go as planned, we give up. We say "It's too hard" or "why do I even try"? The reason? Growth. We have lessons to learn and wisdom we can pass on. I am constantly discovering new ways and approaches in how to communicate with people based on feedback or how people receive information I give them. Each person listens differently. People may hear things differently as well.
When I was in counseling years ago with a former partner, I learned a really great technique. We were not hearing one another. This doctor said we should try asking one another (before assuming we heard one thing vs another) "I heard you say "insert words". Is that what you meant?" While that relationship did not work out - that advice has. I still use it today.
Learn from Failure
Do not be afraid of failure. It's part of life. Take time to learn from it. Aim for the old saying "Progress, not perfection". When you have that epiphany, that “a-ha” moment, write about it! It can be so helpful and therapeutic. That way you can look back and learn.
My last bit of advice? Ask yourself the following. What have you been doing repeatedly that is not working? Take time to look at your life and figure out what needs improvement and set some goals. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Try something different, and if it doesn't work, gather what you learned, try a new approach, and most importantly, try again.
Teri Tenseth Market is a Personal Trainer and holds a Diploma in Nutrition. Have a question for Teri? Email her at email@example.com. Teri can be found on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter at @fcpchick.