Take a Risk Part 2: Key Aspects of Failing Forward

By Kate Bennett, PsyD

Last week, I wrote about the idea of failing forward. Knowing that the seemingly simply concept is more complex than it initially appears, this post focuses on three critical aspects of failing forward. These components occur during the chasm between “that did not work out the way I hoped” and “I learned my lessons, time to move on.” Responses in that moment allow you to let go, move forward, grow, achieve, and succeed. So, what needs to occur?

Mindfulness: The scope of mindfulness extends well beyond this post; however, one key aspect of mindfulness specifically relates to the concept of failing forward: A non-judgemental stance. There is no right or wrong, should or should not, good or bad. Whatever happened, happened. Let go of judgment and focus on the facts. This not only reduces shame (which fuels perfectionism) but also allows you to focus on valuable feedback and derive important learning lessons.

Acceptance: Building on the idea of mindfulness, whatever happened, happened. This does not mean that you approve of the outcome nor does it mean that you like the result. It is important to remember that acceptance does not equal approval. It simply means that you ground yourself in the moment and move forward. By accepting the outcome, you take power away from the mistake itself and create opportunity for growth instead.

Grace: Humans are imperfect by nature and all humans make mistakes. It is what you do with the mistake that matters. By extending yourself grace and accepting imperfection, you create an opportunity to grow, achieve, and succeed. Within the word imperfection is “I’m perfect.” Think of yourself as perfectly imperfect. Extend yourself grace and allow yourself to grow through experience. Embrace the mistake as an opportunity rather than failure.

If you find yourself in that chasm after taking a risk, remember to fail forward with mindfulness, acceptance, and grace. Not only will you create opportunities to grow, achieve, and succeed, you will also experience freedom from perfectionism in addition to develop resiliency and confidence. Each of these concepts are key components for thriving in life and sport.