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There is no failure, only feedback...and feedback is a gift!

This is a very useful belief to cultivate in your mind.

AND, when you think about it, it's true!

This is the NLP communication model (see related blogs for more detail), which explains how we learn and how we process our human experience.

In its most simple terms, it shows that we operate a lot like a computer

  • Information - some information comes in through our five senses

  • Internal Computer - we process it based on our existing programmes, stored data and other variables

  • The Magic Triad - the processing results in some output - what we think/say to ourselves about what's going on, how we feel about it and how that affects our body posture/physiology

  • Behaviour - we use that output to decide what to say and do

  • Results/Feedback - we get some results/feedback based on what we did.

  • We're built to learn - that feedback gets to go through the model again which is how we learn. Our internal computer gets updated if we consistently get the same feedback or if the feedback makes us realise that one of our programmes needs an immediate update!

A couple of things we can learn from this

  • Behaviour

    • In the moment we decide what to do and we're always choosing what seems like the best option, however difficult that may be.

    • We don't ever intentionally do something to get it wrong (and if we do, there's always a good reason behind doing something badly so you don't get asked to do it again!)

  • Results/Feedback

    • Whatever we do, something happens, and we get some feedback through what we see, what people say, how we feel etc.

At this stage, it's JUST feedback. It's a gift which we could learn from
BUT that's often not what happens.
Instead, we give it a label of good/bad, success/failure...

And if we perceive FAILURE then

  • That feels a bit like an attack. We get swamped by negative emotions, our brains shut down a bit and we miss all the useful stuff we could have learned if we had just calmly treated the feedback as feedback

  • We may expand the feedback - "I've failed at this, so I AM a failure" or "I'm not good enough at THIS SORT OF THING to succeed" etc. And if you keep feeding that back into the processor, it will become part of your processing and you'll be more likely to expect to fail in the future, and...

  • Expecting to fail

    • leads to a lack of self-belief, a lack of self-confidence, pessimism or simply avoiding the things that you think you MIGHT fail at

    • makes failure more likely as you'll go into a situation feeling more stressed which means you'll be physically tense and not thinking straight

All of which could be avoided if you stop adding the failure label!
Whatever happens, it's JUST feedback!
Learn from it and move on.

The classic example to back this up is Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb:

In every one of the 10,000 attempts to create a lightbulb, Edison learnt something new that would help his next experiment.

He wasn't failing, he was just learning.

If he'd viewed each experiment that didn't work as a failure, I imagine he could easily have given up after about 10 goes!


If you haven't quite got the result you set out to get, or find yourself in a position that you didn't plan for
  • Take a step back and take a few deep breathes

  • Look at the feedback with objective eyes - "critical reflection" that has no element of criticism attached to it

  • What can you learn from the feedback?

    • What's good about it? What's useful for the future?

    • How will you use that learning?

      • Is there something that you can or need to do now?

      • What will you do differently in a similar situation next time?

      • Based on what's happened, what other options and opportunities may be worth considering that you could experiment with?

  • What feedback will you choose to ignore

    • YES! - ignoring feedback is an option if it's not useful!

Feedback is just like any other gift -
you get to decide if you want to keep it or not!

For some reason, this image makes me laugh every time I look at it. Poor woman!!

But what if someone tells me I'm wrong or judges me?

Well...if you think about it, what they say to you is the behaviour they have chosen based on the information they have used and their processing and (like you) they think they are right.

It's their opinion, their judgement, their decision, their view and they're sharing that with you

...but for you, it's feedback, so just like any other result.

  • Is there something useful to learn from this person/their feedback? or

  • Do you need to just ignore it?

...and...people like to know they've been heard and understood so there's a chance that if you don't listen to their feedback, they'll just keep going or start talking louder if you ignore them.

So listen and let them know you've heard them.

Thank them for their feedback and then either

  • decide what you will do differently next time

  • explore the feedback with them. Perhaps they can help you figure out what you might do differently next time

  • quietly ignore them,or

  • let them know you're going with whatever you've decided and explain why.

As well as real people, this can be a helpful strategy for dealing with the inner critic in your head, whose job it is to help you in some way or keep you safe by alerting you to everything that is wrong with what you're thinking of doing or have done.

Again, that's all just feedback so let your inner critic know you've heard it and it might just be quiet "Thank you for your feedback but I think I'm going to be OK for all these reasons...You don't have to fret".

So if you want to 'be more Edison' and have the mindset that lets you develop and succeed, remember

There is no failure, only feedback...and you're built to learn!
Feedback is a gift which you can choose to accept and act on or ignore.
Success is all about how well you bounce back when things don't go to plan

And if you find that some feedback has dumped you in the middle of some strong negative emotions, my blogs on dealing with negative emotions, and the magic triad can help restore calm, so you can carry on and learn what's useful in the feedback you've received.

This is just one of the things that help my coaching clients change how they think for an easier, more enjoyable life.

If you'd like to discuss how you can apply this or explore coaching with me, you can book a free call here.

And if you'd like to try out my monthly emails that provide a roundup of my blogs as well as other insights, you can sign up here.


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