Finding Hope in Failure

Finding Hope in Failure

Have you ever felt defeated when you have tried to do something different?  Perhaps you’ve started up your private practice recently and haven’t got any clients.  Or you’ve had a client and they’ve stopped attending counselling after just a few sessions.  Perhaps you’ve been on some CPD, been enthused with a new idea and technique, tried it out on a client and it’s bombed.

I often find it difficult when I’m trying to master a new skill and I don’t get it right first time.  There’s a part of me that believes that I should be more capable and failure brings out old fears about being laughed at, judged, and thought inadequate.

This week I came across the concept of “yet”.  This small word is wonderfully freeing.  It gets applied when we’re trying to do something but have yet to succeed.

Here are a few examples:

  • I haven’t got enough clients – yet
  • I haven’t identified my niche – yet
  • I can’t use this new technique – yet

I think the reason this is so helpful is because it promotes the idea that progress is possible.

Carol Dweck who talks about this approach in her powerful TED talk “The power of believing you can improve” illustrates how it helps children to feel more motivated. She found that praising children for their effort rather than results enabled underprivileged children to out perform their more advantaged peers within months.

When people are encouraged to see problems as challenges it changes their approach.  Instead of seeing themselves as stupid, it encourages them to adapt and think of new ways to tackle the problem.  They have more hope that they will be able to find a solution.

This is known as a “growth mindset” rather than a “fixed mindset”.  A fixed mindset shuts people down.  They judge themselves as useless and fear censure.  Carol Dweck says they are trapped in the tyranny of “now”, what is happening in this moment. “Yet” gives them the possibility that they can improve.

Hopefulness is not a feeling, it is a self-belief.

It is a belief that:

  • I can do this
  • I know where I want to go, I can set realistic goals
  • I know how to get there, I can cope if I fail and try again.

Hope enables people to keep trying.  Perfectionism is about believing we’re not good enough.  Hope is about believing that we are.

Perfectionism says:

  • “I’m not good enough. I will fail so I won’t try. What will people think?”
  • “I’m not good enough.  I can’t do this.  I should stop because what will people think?” 

Hope says:

  • “I’m good enough, I can try, I can make mistakes, I can adapt, I can ask for help if necessary.”
  • “I want to do this because I feel satisfied when I master new skills”

Notice the difference in focus between the two attitudes.  One – perfectionism – is concerned about the impression their efforts will make on other people.  It is fearful of judgement. The other – hope – is focused around self-improvement. It is about personal growth, about making the best of individual potential. Hope is active rather than reactive.

Hope is about meeting personal goals. It flows from a place of creativity.  It is about setting an objective and working out ways to meet it.  It may not start with a strong sense of confidence because sometimes that is what is developed as various milestones are met along the way.  Hope however is the belief that it is possible for *me* to achieve given enough effort and flexibility.

The little word – “yet” – can inject hope within us and help us to move from self-doubt, procrastination and quitting towards self-belief, energy and accomplishment.

If you’d like to work towards improving your self-belief and developing a more hopeful mindset, please do contact me.