Often in the entrepreneurial space, failure is acknowledged as being key for growth. It's how you learn. How you push yourself to your limit. And ultimately, a necessary prerequisite for success. 

But what's often missed in this context is the fact that failure sucks. The whole idea of thinking your way out of it--strategizing of what to do next--helps your business in the short-term but may not be the best long-term approach. 

Because if your mind is running 100 mph on solutions, then you're missing the most overlooked aspect of failure: the emotional consequences of falling short. 

See, business and emotions--from a historical perspective--have been separated. Men embracing traditional gender roles imbued themselves with "rational thinking," devoid of the "irrational emotionality" of women. And this overzealous misogyny reinforced the notion that men, rather than women, should rule the public sphere. 

Further, it was historically thought that logic and emotions are separate. Originating from the Descartian dualistic split between mind and body, this binary of apparent opposites is now known to be false--as both thinking and feeling are intertwined. 

You can think a thought that leads to a feeling. You can feel a certain way that leads to a thought. You can take action based on a thought. You can engage in a behavior due to a feeling. 

And all of this leads to a giant feedback loop: your thoughts influence your feelings, which influence your behaviors, which influence your feelings, which influence your thoughts. Get it?

So, if strategizing about learning from failure comes at the expense of confronting the uncomfortable emotions associated with it, that's a problem. Because your feelings are fundamentally related to your thoughts and behaviors.

Let me give you an example. 

Right now I'm falling short of my expectations. I'm in the middle of transitioning from full-time graduate school and part-time employment to full-time employment. Currently on a break, I'm moving to a new city. And I'm getting married in a few months. 

And while I'm staying busy enough packing up my belongings, there's so much more I could be working on. My goals for this time period included creating new materials for my coaching business, which is something I'm looking to expand in the near future. 

But that's not happening. And I don't like the way that makes me feel. 

If I choose to strategize--to contemplate ways to do better tomorrow than I am doing today--I will leave with several takeaways. I will, indeed, have a better plan and be a bit more productive.

And while there's nothing wrong with that approach, unless I also address my feelings of sadness and disappointment related to not meeting my goals, I'm missing a key piece of growth.

Because real growth isn't just about your thoughts--it's about building an emotional foundation that allows you to achieve success and maintain your humanity.

Part of falling short of your expectations involves accepting that you're not a robot. That you're not an object that can perform well under all circumstances. That, at the end of the day, you're human--flawed like the rest of them. 

And that's okay. It's okay to have difficult days or weeks.

Part of overcoming those time periods involves giving yourself that space to fail and dealing with the aftermath.

It's okay to not be perfect all the time. It's okay to fall short of your (unrealistic) expectations. Where did those expectations come from, by the way?

Were they your thoughts or someone else's?

Think about that for a minute. So often we beat ourselves up because we've internalized thoughts and opinions of other people--parents, teachers, leaders--that we don't form our own opinions. 

Failure is a time to re-evaluate your expectations. To create space for being human. And to engage in the self-reflection required to get in tune with your feelings.

Getting in touch with what you feel can lead to making better decisions. That way you're not doing things like staying busy as a way to avoid feeling uncomfortable, but instead are feeling discomfort and allowing that to inform future action. 

And sometimes making room for your uncomfortable feelings does something miraculous: releases them. 

Letting go of those feelings by confronting and processing them helps clear your head and--because thoughts and feelings are connected--also releases you from frustrating thoughts. 

Don't become someone that only thinks and doesn't feel. It disconnects you from what matters. It causes more suffering. And it will, at some point, come back to bite you.

There is another way. And that way is self-compassion. 

Published on: May 29, 2018