We know that disappointment and failure are critical elements to success. Yet, when it happens to me, I recognize I have forgotten all of that and found myself obsessing over every little detail of my failure.
I admit, I have had perfectionist tendencies in the past and that has colored my response. However, I’ve also found that I am not unique in finding myself brooding on loss instead of celebrating it. And you know what, that’s ok too.
Sometimes brooding on a mistake leads to the lesson that was needed to prevent it from happening again. And sometimes it’s simply a mistake that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
Either way, I realized I need to be more intentional about how I deal with disappointment and failure on two fronts: the way I show up for myself and the way I show up for others.
Personal disappointment and failure for personal development for leadership
Showing up for myself
In my view, every day is an opportunity for me to show up and do something great. When I’m in my best form I show up for myself with confidence, grace and dignity. When I’m not, I show up with self judgement, obsessive thoughts and a lot of repressed emotions.
On these days, I realize I have not been very kind to myself or extended the same compassion that I do to others. I have held myself on a pedestal of perfection and while I am graceful with others’ mistakes, I have been far less graceful about my own. Recently, I had a moment of failure where I simply didn’t show up for myself.
It was a project I wasn’t excited about and despite knowing I had to do a significant amount of preparation, I didn’t. I had procrastinated and for the first time in a long while I simply wasn’t able to pull it off.
As a result, I had a public failure. This is an example of me not showing up for myself. I find that these times have been preceded by procrastination, a lack of passion and manageable consequences.
This is unacceptable behavior. As I mentioned, I’m not here to show up and be mediocre. I’m here to show up and be great. As such, I must hold myself accountable to that standard. I’ve recognized that my expectations for myself far exceed those of others.
And that is a great thing. I know I’m capable of greatness. And the only way to achieve it is to hold myself accountable to greatness at every turn. Especially when I fail.
Showing up for others
In the previous example, I also didn’t show up for others. There was a public failure where I could’ve shined and instead, I was robotic and unengaging. This is not typical behavior for me and doesn’t support the vision of the way I want to show up for others.
I pride myself on holding myself to a high standard to prove that the impossible is possible. And instead, I proved my approach made the outcome I desired impossible.
As part of my own accountability, I consider how I want to show up for others and what kind of impact I want to have. To be honest, this is probably my most effective personal development for leadership technique. To do it for myself has become boring and doesn’t have the jazz of showing up for others in a way that creates impact.
I’ve used this technique many times and in a variety of ways, but here’s an example that I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about. During the Pandemic shutdown I became a runner.
One day I had looked in the mirror after gaining 20 pounds and said, “you’re either going to get fitter or fatter through this.” I chose to get fitter and started running 3 to 4 times a week.
As you can imagine “becoming” a runner is a process that involves a lot of challenging runs as I broke through the edges of my unfit self. I had to find a greater reason to run to give me the motivation to keep going.
I needed to be inspired by my impact on others. So, as I ran and it became challenging, I imagined that I was running on a generator that was spreading love and light through the world.
I’d ask myself, “can I show up for the collective today?” This little mantra gave me a boost of energy and would suddenly make a difficult run, easy again. And surprisingly, it worked every time!
Also don’t forget to checkout common myths about empathic leaders.
Adding a dose of kindness and compassion
In any case, it is important to focus on “how” we respond to failure and disappointment for personal development for leadership.
As I notice my own behavior, I’ve noticed that I could add A LOT of kindness and compassion into my response, mostly to myself. The self judgement that has come with failure in the past has delayed forward progress.
And the easiest way to get back on track is to forgive myself and to offer a lot of compassion in return. This is a great time to tap into self-care practices.
For me, it often means a time at the gym to enjoy the Jacuzzis and saunas. Or it can be a nice long run to clear my head or a simple walk outside.
As I look at adding kindness and compassion in my response it’s important to me that I treat myself the way I would treat someone else. I am kind and compassionate in my response to others, so it should feel natural to do the same for myself.
Yet, it has been difficult in the past. Sometimes my thoughts feel like they are racing trying to go through every angle to solve a problem even when it’s already been solved or replaying the scenario in my mind over and over again.
My kind, compassionate self knows how to quickly forgive, take the time to reflect on the lesson and move forward with something that brings me joy.
All in all, there’s a lot of talk about disappointment and failure, but I’ve seen a lot less action. I’m a person of action and when I see an area of improvement for personal development for leadership, I love taking the initiative to improve and experience the satisfaction on the other side of success.
I do have high standards for myself and I believe that is a good thing. However, it’s also important to recognize when those standards have gotten out of control and have demotivated me from bringing my best self to the world.
That’s when it’s important to take action instead of saying, “this too shall pass.” Instead, reflect on how you show up for yourself after a failure.
Then reflect on how you show up for others. And finally look for opportunities to layer in kindness and compassion in both scenarios. The more you practice the better you’ll become at turning a loss into a win.