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Description: Does failure lead to more failure or to success? You have probably heard from one source or another that we learn more from failure than from success which would suggest some sort of a link between failure and subsequent success. But is that true and if so just how is it that failure could lead to success? Is it just that we learn something that we did not know before and, based on that new knowledge, do well enough next time to succeed? What other factors might be at play in the production of success after failure? Think about your own experience and about what you think might be involved in this failure – success sort of link and then read the article linked below to see what some recent research suggests.

Source: Turning Failure into Fuel for Success, Nick Hobson, Leandra McIntosh and Maryam Marashi, Ritual and the Brain, Psychology Today

Date: December 5, 2018

Image Credit: Pexels

Article Link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/ritual-and-the-brain/201812/turning-failure-fuel-success

So, failure may well be a pre-cursor condition for success.  The key, however, is to figure out who shows this sort of pattern, under what conditions do they show it, and what, exactly do they do that increases the likelihood that they will succeed after failure (and is that trainable)? This sort of insight would be very helpful as it could help us to flesh out related concepts like resilience, girt and perseverance and things like growth mindsets. While we, of course, need more search in this area the authors of the article linked above suggest 4 steps we can try and take after failure that could help us to leverage our emotional response to failure in ways that could increase our chances for subsequent success. As the author’s suggest after failure you should: (1) see it for what it is (do not let your defense mechanisms “hide” your failure from you; (2) don’t think your failure away through excuses or rationalizations; (3) Turn on and pay attention to your feelings, not to wallow in them be to experience and understand them; and (4) lean towards taking action and reconfigure any emotions that seem to be pushing for inaction (sulking, wound-licking, or rumination) and get ready to try again and, perhaps, to succeed.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Is success or more failure most likely to follow failure on a task?
  2. What sort of things can/should we do after a failure in order to increase the likelihood that our next efforts will lead to success?
  3. What others sorts of research might we do that would build on the results discussed in the linked article on post-failure emotion work and expand our understanding of resilience, grit and perseverance and suggest post failure trainable actions?

References (Read Further):

Lebeau, J. C., Gatten, H., Perry, I., Wang, Y., Sung, S., & Tenenbaum, G. (2018). Is failing the key to success? A randomized experiment investigating goal attainment effects on cognitions, emotions, and subsequent performance. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 38, 1-9.

Healy, L. C., Ntoumanis, N., Stewart, B. D., & Duda, J. L. (2015). Predicting subsequent task performance from goal motivation and goal failure. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 926. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00926

Nelson, N., Malkoc, S. A., & Shiv, B. (2018). Emotions know best: The advantage of emotional versus cognitive responses to failure. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 31(1), 40-51. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/bdm.2042

Ntoumanis, N., Healy, L. C., Sedikides, C., Smith, A. L., & Duda, J. L. (2014). Self-regulatory responses to unattainable goals: The role of goal motives. Self and Identity, 13(5), 594-612. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15298868.2014.889033

Jones, N. P., Papadakis, A. A., Orr, C. A., & Strauman, T. J. (2013). Cognitive processes in response to goal failure: A study of ruminative thought and its affective consequences. Journal of social and clinical psychology, 32(5), 482-503. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3864849/

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