Nobody really wants to fail. Admitting you messed up, revealing you couldn’t make it work, and announcing layoffs and closures is not how anyone planned their business journey. And yet, failure happens every day, and it happens to almost every entrepreneur. But what if, instead of failure meaning defeat and hopelessness, it could mean greater success in business?
David Robson is an award-winning science writer who specializes in the extremes of the human brain, body and behavior, and he understands how failure can be channeled into success. The clue lies in how you document and tell your story, and therefore how you frame the role that failure plays in your life.
“Turning our memories into a well-told life narrative and seeing our future as an extension of that story can help us achieve our self-improvement aspirations,” he explained. Robson has written on these topics as a features editor for New Scientist and a senior journalist for BBC Future. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, Men’s Health and the Atlantic, and in 2022 he won Mental Health Story of the Year at the MJA Annual Awards. David’s second book The Expectation Effect: How Your Mindset Can Transform Your Lifewas published last year.
According to Robson, there are several benefits to crafting your life story and trying to rewrite our failures, and here are the top five.
Better overall mental health
“When you take ownership of your life narrative and view your failures as positive turning points where you can acknowledge what you’ve learned from the experience, it’s linked to a reduced risk of depression,” said Robson, who is a fan of reflection. and journaling as a way to do this.
Failure doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, and it won’t be if you don’t see it that way. Every project that ends makes room for a new one to begin, same with relationships, agreements or contracts. Telling the story of what went wrong can bring humor, learning and ideas for the way forward that help someone’s brain switch into a more useful channel.
While there is a caveat here, which is “it is not possible to turn all traumas into positive stories”, and this can, in fact, “create a pressure that is not always healthy”, there is no denying that “when we look at our performance in the workplace, taking stock of where we failed, despite the pain, there may be something we can take forward.” Robson says this is a “really psychologically healthy reaction and research supports that it’s good for your mental health.”
Increased self-esteem and sense of self-worth
“Just writing about important events in your life can boost your self-esteem,” explained Robson, which he says comes from multiple studies with over 1,000 participants. Studies have found that this practice “makes you feel better about yourself and your abilities.” Robson said this may be because “it seems to give people a sense of self-efficacy, that they realize they have a rich story to tell, which makes them feel better about themselves.”
If you’re feeling down about something, especially work-related, look back at your life story and try to think of some of your successes. It can also help you put your failures into perspective. Today’s angry customer email can be handled better when you remember how you successfully navigated customer relationships before. Tomorrow’s important meeting might seem less daunting in the context of all the pitches you’ve hit.
In a sea of hundreds of positive reviews, it’s easy to focus on the negative. Human nature means that we look for potential dangers and threats, so we gravitate towards a star and obsess over it. But thinking and writing about the event as a whole can keep us from focusing on the small, inconsequential details that cost us our confidence.
Positive impacts on physical health
One of the many studies Robson read that supported this result looked at expressive writing in students. The study found that after they wrote about an important time in their lives and talked about the emotions they had during the experience, they were less likely to visit the doctor. The link is closure and rumination.
“Once you get into that expressive writing process, you start to create a narrative,” which Robson said is especially powerful for entrepreneurs who write about their failures. “You become more objective and distanced from the event itself and you start to find closure. Preferably finding the lessons, but also finding the broader context of how failure fits into your overall trajectory.”
Writing about an event in this way gives you psychological closure and prevents you from ruminating, which is related to stress. “The more we turn things over and over in our head without finding an outcome, the more stressed we feel and the worse it is for our physical health.” When you do this expressive writing, you find better closure, which means better physical health. The mental and the physical are intertwined.
Increased persistence and self-discipline
Writing and talking about your failure stories can mean you feel less defeated and more determined to achieve your goals. “Research shows that when we become more sophisticated in thinking about our life story, focusing on the defining moments when we face disappointments and make progress despite them, it reinforces the belief that you can and will overcome failures in the future. ”, said Robson.
Recall how you overcame past failures to feel bulletproof for whatever lies ahead. “If you’ve just experienced failure,” Robson said, “you might be tempted to give up, but looking back in your life history and finding other points where you suffered similar setbacks but came back even stronger is a good idea. way to get up and chase your dreams.”
Robson’s research that gathered these trends observed students doing writing exercises about their past failures and demonstrated that this had a positive effect on their grades in the following months through this sense of self-empowerment. Persistence is always necessary for entrepreneurship, so reminders of how persistent you are capable of being will likely serve you well.
More able to work in tough times
Finally, this research tells us how we can reframe our thinking while we’re in the midst of a really tough challenge, when we can feel like we’re on the verge of failure. Related to Robson’s new book, The Expectation Effect, “Often we can see our feelings of anxiety and frustration as a sign of impending failure that can cause us to catastrophize what’s going to happen, so we start to think about worst-case scenarios and see emotions themselves as being dangerous.”
It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. “If you think your frustration and anxiety are going to make your situation worse and you fear the stress you are feeling, that just turns out to be true and it makes failure more likely.” This is not a recipe for the stamina needed to meet challenges.
But there are other, much better ways to look at this. Instead of catastrophizing, “you can recognize that anxiety is a sign that this is really important to you”, likewise, when you are feeling stressed, “see it as an energizing signal that your body is preparing for deal with the challenge. ahead.” Reframe the way you interpret the emotions of your difficulties. “When you do this,” Robson said, “you become more creative, your problem-solving skills improve, and you are better able to find a solution to a problem. the difficulties you are facing. This helps to silence some of the harmful effects that can come from long-term stress and is a really useful skill for anyone to learn.
Instead of spending your day reacting to whatever happens, see yourself as the main character in the movie of your life. See the barriers and obstacles as fun things you can overcome and tell in stories. When something important happens, success or failure, write about it, talk about it, discern the meaning, put it aside and move on. Improved mental and physical health are just two of the benefits, along with self-esteem, self-esteem, self-discipline, and a sense of being able to conquer the world.