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  • Writer's pictureWomen Story

3 Questions to Turn Failure into Freedom

by Lori Milner

You get two kinds of people: someone who says they have twenty years of experience or someone who has repeated the same year twenty times. Do you know someone who constantly attracts the same situations yet responds identically and can't understand why they don't have a better result? This is truly the definition of insanity.

Never waste a good mistake or failure. How can the future you grow and evolve if you don't incorporate the growth and lessons along the way? How do you take the lessons, drop the story, and convert it into something more powerful? It all comes down to a better set of questions; the next time you experience failure, consider extracting the nuggets with these three questions:

How can I make this a teachable moment?

How often have you looked back on a situation with guilt, shame, and anger? Often, it's not anger at others but at yourself for your choice. Rather than carry these feelings like unnecessary baggage, what if you redeem the situation by finding the teachable moment?

As much as I want to be the perfect mother, I am far from it. I've lost my temper and reacted in ways my higher self would not approve of. Fortunately, I have the gift of self-awareness and rather than feel bad or want my ego to win, I sit down with my kids and share what I did wrong and how I could have reacted much better. It doesn't have to be colossal failures, but we do silly things, and our kids watch how we respond. By sharing my vulnerability, I am teaching them it's okay to make mistakes and showing them the power of taking ownership of the situation. If you don't have kids, how can you use the situation to show your human side? The teachable moment doesn't have to be how to solve a situation, but teach them who you are at your best. Maybe it's going back to an employee or colleague and admitting you reacted in a way that had nothing to do with them and everything to do with you. How can you use humility as a teachable moment to show your human side? Don't let pride get in the way; own your mistakes because you will be remembered for how you handled them.

Where did I contribute?

It's human nature to blame when things don't go according to plan, but the truth and inconvenient reality is that you contributed to the situation even if you're adamant it wasn't you. Consider a team member who drops the ball on delivering their work on deadline, resulting in you having to get it done under pressure. When you reflect on the situation, where did you contribute? Did you review the work too late? Did you make it safe for them to share their concerns? Did you clarify your expectations about what done and doing looks like? The more you can acknowledge your role and view it from a place of curiosity and ownership rather than judgment, the more you will learn from the situation. Maybe your contribution was that you should have calmed down before responding in anger. Maybe you shouldn't have assumed or expected something from another person without being clear about what you wanted. Whatever the situation, the more honest you can be about where you contributed, the more power you have going forward because your ownership gives you control. Blame removes all control and leaves you powerless.

Knowing what I know now, what would I do differently? 

Hindsight is an exact science. This question allows you to take the gift of hindsight and integrate the lessons. It provides a new layer that wasn't present to you then. The important thing is to have this internal conversation with a learning mindset rather than a self-critical one. Maybe it's understanding that your fears were greater in your imagination than in reality. Maybe it's planning, clarifying expectations or having more communication. Failure is not a bug of growth but a feature. It will happen, but how you respond to it will make the difference between being a victim of your failure or the architect of your future. Rather than fear it or push it away when it does show up, embrace it, spend time with it and add it to your life toolkit.

Never waste a good failure; otherwise, the lesson will keep showing up until you get it.

Lori Milner is the engaging facilitator, thought leader and mentor known for her insightful approach to being a modern corporate woman. Her brainchild, the successful initiative Beyond the Dress, is the embodiment of her passion to empower women. Beyond the Dress has worked with South Africa’s leading corporates and empowered hundreds of women with valuable insight on how to bridge the gap between work and personal life. Clients include Siemens, Massmart, Alexander Forbes, Life Healthcare Group, RMB Private Bank and Unilever to name a few. Lori has co-authored Own Your Space: The Toolkit for the Working Woman in conjunction with Nadia Bilchik, CNN Editorial Producer. Own Your Space provides practical tools and insights gleaned from workshops held around the world and from interviews with some of South Africa’s most accomplished women to provide you with tried-and-tested techniques, tips and advice to help you boost your career, enhance your confidence and truly own your space on every level. Own Your Space is the ultimate ‘toolkit’ to unleash your true power. It’s for the woman who wants to take her career to new heights and who is ready to fulfil her true potential.


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