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Failure vs. Learning

Success breeds success, but feeling like a failure can be paralyzing. So often, we see ourselves as failures even though we are succeeding in the learning process.

Understanding how we learn can be life changing. Most people require five to seven repetitions of a skill or subject before they fully absorb it. Whether it’s how to use an Excel spreadsheet, adulting skills, or navigating in a new city, it takes time, repetition, and practice to truly comprehend a new skill.

When we experience something new, a nerve cell in our brain, called a neuron, signals another neuron and sends the information along. That second neuron passes the information to a third neuron the next time the concept is repeated. This continues until our brains build a neural pathway that stores the knowledge, which means learning has occurred. We generally need five to seven learning opportunities to create these neural pathways.

Difficult subjects will require foundational learning. Let’s face it, only a few of us ever truly understood Algebra. We can’t all be good at everything, but easier subjects will need fewer repetitions to master. Easy to learn skills are different for everybody, which is why comparing yourself to others forms an inaccurate picture of yourself. In fact, comparison leads to feelings of failure.

Unique talents and an incredible mix of skills and life experiences all exist within you. Focusing on your strengths and what you can do empowers you. View your weaknesses as areas of improvement or skills that you can outsource. Maybe you need to spend some extra time learning the Excel worksheet, so you watch some online videos. You can do the same for some of your adulting needs, or you could hire a housekeeper while you work on bill paying and banking. Most smartphones come with a GPS system to help you navigate even while walking.

But imagine if you got discouraged and gave up on the fifth or sixth learning opportunity. You would not have fully constructed that neural pathway, although you would have been close. Not learning the information might have made you feel like a failure when in fact you were simply in the process of learning. The lesson here is don’t quit. Ask for help if you need to, but don’t stop until you create that knowledge base in your brain.

Changing your paradigm from feeling like a failure to seeing yourself within the learning process will help you to see yourself as successful. Positively reframing this time of development as making progress, or as being on a journey can keep you feeling positive. Negative feelings sabotage your steps forward, so give yourself credit for what you have learned and celebrate your effort. It will pay off.

If you are ready for next level thinking and could use help unraveling what is holding you back, coaching may be the solution to bridging those gaps in your life. Please email me at, or call me at 620-208-6254 for more information. The first coaching session is always complimentary.