How to Fail Successfully: Was It Your Fault?

Learn to avoid a repeat mistake

by Liza Mundy
pie chart image

To grow from failure, you have to figure out what you did wrong so you don’t do it again. Psychologist Tamar Chansky suggests creating a pie chart: “Start to think about all the different components that went into the situation not turning out as planned,” she says. Ask yourself, How much did each factor contribute? Draw appropriately sized slivers and label them. Some of the slices may be factors you couldn’t regulate: “The boss kept changing his mind”; “My workload that day was too heavy.” Others may in fact be under your control: “I didn’t double-check my work”; “I could have spoken up more assertively in that meeting.” The pie chart provides an objective way of looking at a situation, offering visible proof that your actions are just one part of a larger whole that also involves the difficulty of the task and the contributions of others. As you plan further endeavors, you can proactively identify and work harder on the parts that lie within your control.

Photo: Allies Interactive/

First published in the December 2013/January 2014 issue

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