What Would Life Be Like Without The F-Word? (...F for Failure!)


The word “failure” is so harsh, isn’t it? We do all kinds of things in life to avoid any kind of association with it and spend way too much precious time and energy agonizing over the possibility of failure that sometimes we don’t even try in the first place. But what if we just eliminate the word from our vocabulary? What if there was no such thing as failing? Imagine all the stuff we’d do differently??

Replace “fail” with “not yet”…

I recently watched a TED Talk with Carol Dweck who was researching motivation and encountered a high school in Chicago that instead of giving out “Fs” gave out “Not Yet”. The power of Not Yet…what a brilliant concept! That just opens up the whole world and shifts the mindset into believing in the possibility of improvement.

Choose a growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset

Carol goes on to describe the difference between the fixed mindset and the growth mindset in a study she conducted where she gave a group of 10 year olds a problem to solve slightly beyond their abilities. The fixed mindset kits became frustrated, felt the situation was catastrophic, felt their intelligence was being judged, and stated they would probably cheat next time. But the growth mindset kids said they were glad to get a chance to learn something and that they love a good challenge! They didn’t feel like their intelligence was being scrutinized, they instead saw the challenge is something to learn from because they believed in their ability to learn. Amazing!! There was no difference in IQ between the two groups, just simply a difference in mindset. Imagine how much less anxious and more fluid, flexible, and at ease we’d all be if we chose to have a growth mindset?

Practice makes perfect…sense…

Did you know that effective practice is the best way to push individual limits, achieve new heights, and maximize our potential? Kind of obvious but it's important to remember this when you're trying something new...especially as adults because we generally suck at allowing ourselves to learn!

For kids, practice is just part of life every day! They expect to have to practice, nearly everything they’re doing is new-ish...they practice sports, instruments, writing, vocabulary, basically everything. But we seem to forget this as adults…for some reason we expect we have accumulated all the knowledge our brains will ever be able to handle by the time we’re grown up and we won’t need to learn anything new…or can’t learn anything new because we’re too old? No way! Learning is part of life at any stage…also it’s massively important for our cognitive health as we age.

We DO have the capacity to learn new things even though we are full grown adults.

I love the word practice because it allows for mess-ups, for trying and not getting it quite right, for trying agin, it assumes room for improvement, it’s totally flexible and it’s the antidote to failure.

Next time you’re doing something that you’re afraid of failing at say to yourself “I’m practicing my craft and I’m committed to improving my skills”. I thought about this recently in terms of public speaking…something I’m working on developing. The perfectionist in me was feeling queasy about joining Toastmasters and “doing” public speaking but when I shifted my mindset and thought “I’m practicing my public speaking skills” it all felt much less rigid, less black and white, less pass or fail and it even feels exciting!

Here’s another great TED Talk (this one’s only 5 minutes!) where I learned some of this stuff about practicing…”How To Practice Effectively for Just About Everything”

Here are some tips for effective practicing:

1. Minimize distractions and really focus on your practice

2. Start slow, gradually increase the work, and take frequent breaks

3. Practice the action in your mind to really reinforce the work

So get out there and try all the things, expand your world wide open, and let all the goodness pour in because the f-word no longer exists!

Sarah WalkerComment