// The power of mistakes

by Anthony Spark

Have you ever slipped up, made a poor decision or failed? If your answer to any of these is ‘yes’, give yourself a round of applause and tell yourself, ‘You’re on the way to success!’. If you answer ‘no’ on each count, I feel for you.

Those who haven’t made a mistake or don’t recognise their mistakes lack an opportunity for growth. A key element often missing on our path to fulfillment is recognising the small successes and the lessons in our failures. Self-help guru Anthony Robbins says that if we recognise that we are doing something wrong, we are on the right track to changing it. It’s when we don’t recognise or ignore mistakes
that we have a problem.

Some people avoid making mistakes by never taking chances, so they never really understand their capabilities. Too often we tell ourselves how bad we are at things. Imagine parents ‘trash talking’ their babies when they fall for the fiftieth time while attempting to walk. The reason most toddlers become successful at walking is because there is someone there to give them a hand – a loud, raucous, encouraging hand. Recognising and applauding small victories is part of growth, and helps us to overcome the aspects that may smack of failure.

Fear is one of the reasons we don’t take chances. If we take a chance, the possibility exists that we may not have the knowledge, resources or experience needed to succeed. When overcoming fears, start small and build the muscle. When you get into the habit of facing fear and challenging yourself to overcome it you’ll get better at it. Remember to congratulate yourself each time you face one of your fears. We all know what fear feels like – the churning stomach, the sensation of nausea. These are the same symptoms experienced by elite athletes prior to a world class competition, but these individuals will envision the outcome as being victorious, or at least the best they can do. What’s going on in your brain? What do you focus on? When experiencing fear, most people are imagining that what
they are about to undertake is going to end in disaster. Overcoming fear requires you to focus on your desired outcome, not the worst-case scenario.
Failure provides an opportunity for self-education. What valuable lessons can be learnt from the experience? Make sure you label the experience in a way that will be of benefit to you in the future. If you fail and decide ‘I’ll never try anything new again’, that decision may not serve you in the future. Instead, acknowledge the things you did well, and then learn from the things you could do better. Michael Jordan, arguably the best basketball player to ever walk the earth, looked upon his many failures as the reason for his greatness.

Don’t take failure personally; it’s not all about you. Everyone fails, it’s just that successful people keep failure in perspective. Sometimes failure is simply there to redirect you. Sometimes we need to consider other alternatives as part of the failure process. Don’t give up on your
dreams, but do challenge the methodology you are using to achieve them. When you fail, ask ‘why?’ not ‘who?’ Blaming someone else is never the answer. The lesson you are learning is to never stop trying. If we stop trying, nothing positive happens – no growth, no development, no improvement.

Stay realistic
Here’s an interesting thought. Did you actually fail, or did you fall short of an unrealistic goal? Sometimes we experience failure because we expect it. You may have an acquaintance or a client who constantly takes a negative view of life. These people make such a habit of failure that they are unable to recognise the successes in their lives. You may also know someone who consistently sets such high goals that they can’t possibly achieve them – like the person who joins a gym wanting to lose 10 kilograms in 10 days.

Physically clap
When you can start to recognise the benefit of your failures, you will grow as a person. When you do something well, physically clap out loud. Sure, you may feel a little uncomfortable, but living with discomfort is part of growth. It might be just a gentle ‘golf clap’ to begin with, but as you become better at praising yourself, you will do it more heartily, more easily and more regularly. Liken it to training a muscle; at first lifting a weight is hard work, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes, so the more weight you lift. As you physically give yourself a hand, reinforce the feedback by mentally telling yourself what you did that’s worthy of applause. Why doesn’t everyone do this? Because it’s so much easier to ‘trash talk’ yourself about what you did poorly, and you may even feel comfort from the sympathy such behaviour elicits from others.

Don’t look to others to give you a hand – affirmation from others can be fleeting and fickle. When you are looking for a helping hand, you’ll often find it at the end of your own arm. And as you become accustomed to regularly praising yourself, you will find yourself voluntarily and enthusiastically giving others a hand. By looking for things to praise yourself for, and identifying opportunities to learn from, you can actively overcome fears and find the positive aspects of failure. Go on, give yourself a hand.


Anthony Spark
Anthony has worked in the fitness industry for 17 years. He is CEO of WYN Training, a leading Registered Training Organisation which provides training for prospective personal trainers and a coaching program for those wanting to develop their training businesses. For more information, visit www.wyn.com.au

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