Failing, the Life Designer’s way

We all have our very own definition of Failure, but the majority of us would define it as a negative, unpleasant, and unnecessary experience.

In Life Designing however, we define failure differently. Failures, aka things that don’t work out as expected, are something indispensable, helpful, and supportive.

How comes? How can one and the same event or action can have opposing significations?

Well, that’s because in Life Designing we approach things from a different angle. We have a bias to action, we want to try things out in real life rather than over-analyze them in our head. We deliberately take course towards possible failures. Not to frustrate ourselves, but to gather feedback and important information as fast and as real as possible.

And that’s why we need failure in Life Designing. To get information about a real life experience and to have tangible “data” what to improve or do differently the next time.

Failing is a crucial and indispensable step of our design process. The faster we fail and iterate, the better we move forward.

When I changed my career, I tried a lot of things, in different areas, and in different countries even. And as interesting as all of those experiences had been, in the beginning none of them felt like a fit for my future life. After each and every experience I said to myself, well that was great, but it’s not exactly what I want to do next in my career.

Did I get frustrated about my low accuracy rate, about my failures?

Not really!

Every time I tried something that didn’t worked out, I walked away with tons of insights and learnings. There’s so much wisdom in having clarity what you don’t want and over time those bits and pieces of “failed” experiences will merge to a clear picture of what you truly want. In your job, in your relationships, in life in general.

So, how to fail the Life Designer’s way?

#1 Adapt a new definition of failure

It’s your choice how you rate and classify what’s happening to you. So make a conscious and active choice to incorporate failures (aka things that don’t play out as expected) as an important step in your Life Designing process and as an indispensable precondition for gathering information and insights. It might take some effort and some time to adopt this new definition and you might face some inner resistance. But don’t worry, you’re so much stronger than your mind and your old beliefs and definitions.

#2 Classify your failures

There’s one exercise in the book “Designing your Life” (Bill Burnett & Dave Evans) which suggests to list all your failures of the past months/ years and then to classify them into three categories: Screw-ups, Weaknesses and Growth Opportunities.

I’ve done a similar exercise some years back. Now I was curious what would happen if I’d do this exercise again, four years later and with my well-trained Life Designer’s mindset and practice.

So I went back in my mind over the last year and listed everything that hadn’t worked out as expected.

Yes, there’ve been screw-ups, like putting down some appointments in my google calendar without paying attention to the respective timezone this event will take place in the future. So I happen to arrive insignificant 5 hours too late for an appointment in Munich just because I arranged it when I was in Brazil. Screw-up!

And yes, there’re weaknesses. Those are the things in my life that don’t run smooth because of certain traits or habits of mine.

I have the habit of procrastinating over administrative stuff.

Tax declarations, Health insurance forms etc. And I paid my price(s) for it. Literally and more than once.

When it comes to weaknesses, you only have two choices. Either you start to tackle them and change your pattern for the future, or you decide to live with them, depending on how much this weakness impacts you, or others.

The last category is by far the most interesting one in the world of Life Designing. It’s the category of growth opportunities or valuable insights and information.

And these are the “failures” we need to examine more closely. Because they’re essential for moving forward into the direction we truly want. Towards a life we truly love.

So these are the volunteer work experiences that differ in real life greatly from our imagination. Or these are the business ideas that didn’t take off. Or these are the partnerships or relationships that turned out differently than expected. None of them can be called a failure, because all of them bear too much valuable information and learnings.

I have countless of those growth opportunities…per week!

Many things, especially when it comes to my business don’t work out as expected. Is it because I’m bad at what I’m doing or ill prepared? Not at all! It’s because of my new business (and life) mantra: Take action and get real life feedback as fast as possible.

In other words, “failing” is essential for me to get better in what I’m doing or how I’m living.

#3 Extract the learnings & insights

So that will be your homework for this week, to brainstorm over your failures. All the things that didn’t work out. Last week, last month, last year. Up to you, how far you’d like to go back in time.

And then find the appropriate category for them: Screw-ups, Weaknesses or Learning Opportunities.

On the learning opportunities, get as specific as possible. What where the insights, the information you obtained from this happening? What are your learnings for the future?

The Weaknesses? Well, that’s up to you what you do with them. To work on them, or to live with them.

And the Screw-Ups? Well, there’s only one thing to say. Let Go!!!! Don’t agonize over a screw-up from the past and drag it into your present and future. Let go, move on, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

#4 Become failure immune over time

When I did the exercise now once again, there was one thing that really surprised me. It was really difficult for me to brainstorm my failures. And it took me a really long time. Much longer than when I did the exercise the first time.

So what has changed in those past 4 years?

I still fail. And I definitely fail more often than I used to fail.

But what has changed over the last years is my perception of those happenings. As a committed Life Designer I hardly perceive things as failures. As soon as something happens, I redirect my mind to the learnings and insights. And I move on.

So this means, that you can actually practice failure immunity. And you can learn to shift your perception about certain events. Not over night, but over time.

And if you do so, if you learn how to fail like a Life Designer, you’ll start to make great use of those things that happen to you. Or better said, that happen for you.

Are you curious to learn how to approach your life from a Life Designer’s perspective? Then check out my online learning opportunities. I would be happy to see you in one of my classes.

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