Failure happens, and it's something we learn to deal with as we go up and down on the rollercoaster of life. If you listen to the Art of Likability, you're the kind of person who's already heard the idea that failures are teaching experiences.
Here's the idea in multiple contexts:
Thomas Edison, on inventing the lightbulb:
"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
On the silver screen, Sylvester Stallone as boxing hero Rocky Balboa:
Oprah, on making mistakes:
Bouncing back and learning from failure is a great idea.
But in the middle of failure, it can be hard to start making moves immediately. Sometimes you need to retreat and lick your wounds.
You're not thinking about the specific moves for your comeback because you're still processing the aftermath of the event.
We're not here to harp on about how important it is to shake off failure and learn from your lessons. That's important, but recovery precedes the comeback.
This episode of the Art of Likability focuses on the language you use with failure when you're actively contemplating it, specifically the one thing you should never say about failure:
...and the one thing you should never say about failure is....
"...I am a failure..."
Instead, it's much better to say, "I failed."
It's a small shift in language, but an important one. One version talks about an event, separated from you. The other version talks about you. And there is no separating your identity from you.
Protect Your Identity!
Who or what do you identify with?
Choose your words carefully, because what you tell yourself on the regular has an indelible effect on yourself.
This idea is related to concepts in psychology like a self-fulfilling prophecy and stereotype threat.
You can use this for benefit or for harm. It's potentially harmful when someone doesn't take care with the language they use with themselves and picks harmful words.
If someone regularly calls themselves a failure, they start to identify with that moniker. Objectively correct or not, that is now their identity.
In the case of stereotype threat above, here's an example where identity can harm. Chess is a stereotypically male-dominant game, and psychologists found that women chessplayers tend to play worse when told they were facing a male opponent, and played better when they weren't told of their opponent's sex.
I decided to use this process for my benefit. A few years and a fuller head of hair ago, I used to call myself "America's Top Young Speaker." Nowadays I'm not as young, but I continue to sincerely believe that my speaking makes a positive difference in this world. And I've continued to meet and get to know many wonderful people on my speaking journey.
What do you tell yourself when things don't go your way?
Who, or what do you identify with?
Let us know in the comments below!
In any case, I hope you identify with being awesome, because remember:
YOU ARE AWESOME!