Reframing failure.

March 2, 2017

A few months ago my daughter went for her driving test, and failed. As you can imagine she was very upset. She has a wonderful personality and when she is angry, she expresses it openly. She has done all her life. She began telling me about why she did not get the licence. She explained that she had failed to do a head check when changing lanes, and that she changed lanes in the middle of a 2 land round-a-bout. The instructor called it a ‘critical error’ and immediately terminated the remainder of the driving test. She was only 10 minutes into the test.

In her anger she told me how ‘stupid’ the driving instructor was. She told that the road was unfamiliar, and that she was not as alert as she could have been. I decided to leave the ‘responsibility’ frame alone.

The ‘responsibility’ frame is governed by ’cause and effect’. The question we must all constantly ask ourselves is, am I at cause in this situation, or am I at the effect of it. Someone who lives in ’cause’ takes full responsibility for everything that shows up in their world. Someone living in ‘effect’ will look for someone, or something outside themselves to blame. I decided not to talk about the ‘stupid instructor’, the unfamiliarity of the road, or the unfairness of the test.

Rather I said to her. “That driving instructor saved your life”.

She said, “are you crazy, what are you talking about”.

I said, “in five years time there was an accident, and you were driving, you failed to do a head check and changed lanes. You hit another car and that car hit a pole. 3 people died. You were sent to prison for “undue care and attention”. I reiterated, “that driving instructor saved your life”.

She thought about it, yet she was still angry and the re-frame did not resonate with her. I then told her that she could remain, angry, annoyed and upset, or she could turn her attention towards retaking the test which she had already booked. She could continue to dwell on the failure, of set her mind on the victory. (I’m not suggesting we don’t feel failure and defeat, however staying there too long is de motivational).

I then did some strategic visioning, and had her picture herself holding the licence. I had her focus on the sounds around her, like the click of the camera taking her licence photo. The kind words of loved ones congratulating her for being successful. I had her focus on the feelings of excitement and joy and success and as I did all this noticed the smile widening. All the feelings of anger and frustration seemed to fade.

She was confident that she would succeed at the next appointment and she did.

Focusing on anger, frustration and upset is a dis-empowering way to show up to her next driving test. A better way is to show up confident, relaxed and excited. She had done the work, and knew how to drive. 100 hours plus of driving. She had the right strategy. All that was needed was the right story. The picture she formed in her mind of achieving her goal of obtaining a drivers licence did that. The only thing left was her state. Her state changed from frustrated, angry, upset to excited, confident and joyful.

The following Monday she nailed the test, received her licence and is now able to legally drive on the roads and highways.

If life is getting you down, look for the positive intent behind failure. Practice re-framing situations in positive way, and I promise you this will change your state. Then create something better, or in other words change your story. Then go out and make your life work.

In a seminar I re-framed failure as learning.  I said there are only 2 conditions, “you win or you Learn”.

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