The concept of ‘failure’ is an interesting one. Is failure a kinesthetic phenomenon, an actual internal feeling? Is failure a noun that we apply to ourselves? Is failure an adjective that we use to qualify and describe the noun that is ‘me’ or is failure something that we do, a verb? The simple answer to these very searching questions is yes. Failure is something different to everyone and is indeed a very personal concept which resides within our neurology and our physiology. Some people find motivation by moving away from it, others are paralysed by the very thought of it, so what is it?
We can find some commonality when considering ‘failure’ in its many guises. Failure, however you may personally represent it to yourself, generally occurs when the outcome that we get isn’t the outcome that we expected or desired, hence, we label the result as failure. How many times have you completely given up on something you want because you have perceived the concept of failure?
The next interesting question for us to ponder is, why is it that, as human beings, we seem to be naturally predisposed to focus on the negative? Hmm, that's so true isn't it? Remember a time when you took an action and got mixed results. Some of your outcomes were really positive and you got exactly what you set out to achieve and some outcomes were negative and you didn't get the results you wanted. Which do you then go away and focus on? The negative outcomes of course and I bet you ruminated on them for days! We fail to celebrate our success and offer ourselves the feedback about what we did really well. Why do we do that?
One theory is simply a case of evolution. If we are programmed to focus on the things that don't go well, then we notice what didn't work, change our behaviours and experience personal growth. So it becomes important for some of our activities to have a negative outcome so that we can learn from what we did and incorporate that learning into our ever evolving neurology. The issue here is that most people fail to change their behaviour and instead they install negative emotions regarding the activity that produced the negative feedback. Going forward, it is important that you change your frame of reference when it comes to things that don't go as you expected so that you can continue to grow your competency and expand your neurology, forging important new connections.
So, please consider for a moment, what if the linguistic label ‘failure’ did not exist. Does failure only exist because our linguistic representation of an event offers a labelling process and attached a tag to our subjective experience? One of the foundation learnings when you take an Enhanced NLP Coach Practitioner Certification course is to install within yourself a set of presuppositions (assumptions) which make your everyday life much easier to interpret and manage. One of these convenient assumptions is, ‘There is no failure, only feedback.’ Imagine if you were to assume this presupposition to be true and to install it as part of your belief system. What difference would it make to your life? Can you act as if you held this belief? Notice what you notice when you do.
Conjure up the notion that every unexpected outcome represents valuable and useful feedback. Nothing is wrong or incorrect, it may be different than you anticipated and provides valuable opportunities for learning and growth. Each instance of feedback is a gift to treasure as it opens up the doors to advancement and new thinking. Assessing each moment of feedback creates resonant new ideas and fires our synapses, creating new neurological linkages and inspires new energy. When someone offers you feedback, they should be thanked for offering you an amazing opportunity to take a different perceptual position, to view something in a different way and to accelerate your personal growth. All feedback contains within it a great positive learning, you just need to look for it. Take what you need and leave the rest.
The linguistic effects of feedback are controlled by the words we choose. All positively delivered feedback is killed by one, very small 3 letter word, BUT! The effect of this small and highly significant word is massive. You could give all the positive feedback you can think of and if you follow it with the word BUT everything you said before it is immediately cancelled out of consciousness. The same is true for similar words like HOWEVER, which let’s face it, is simply the word BUT in a frilly blouse! All we need to do to avoid the disastrous effects of BUT is to substitute another small, 3 letter word, AND. The words are small and the effects are hugely impactful.
A simple paradigm for offering feedback can completely transform the way that feedback is received. Here’s how to do it:
• Begin by telling the person what they did really well, what you liked.
• Use the joining word AND, then tell them what you think they could have done to make what they did even better.
• Finish by telling them what you liked overall.
Utilising this easy to use pattern will encourage anyone to listen and appreciate your feedback. Next time you receive some feedback, firstly, thank the person who has offered it to you, as they have done you a great service, then consider the positive changes you can make in order to accelerate your personal growth and enhance your thinking. When your outcomes aren’t what you expected, look for the positive learnings and use this feedback to make changes to your personal behaviours so that you can take control and create the outcomes you desire.
Celebrate your success and remember, there is no failure, only valuable and life enhancing feedback.