How to Stop Fixating on Failure

Which is more helpful for success: building on strengths or fixing weaknesses? Based on my work with the ADP Research Institute on the Global Study of Engagement, less than 20% of people will answer “building on their strengths.” With the majority of people trying to fix their weaknesses, it’s clear that we’re fascinated with failure for three reasons:

  1. We think that excellence is the opposite of failure.

We study disease to understand health, study divorce to understand happy marriages, and we study failure as a means to understand excellence. But it just doesn’t work like that. Inverting why we fail gets us no closer to excellence than studying depression will get you closer to happiness. It may get you to a level playing ground, but it won’t help you excel. You’ve got to be a student of excellence in order to be, well, excellent. Stop studying failure; you’ve got to be a student of excellence in order to be excellent. Click To Tweet

  1. We focus on fear.

One of the reasons we study disease, or divorce, or depression is because we’re afraid. Our evolutionary instinct is to survive – so we focus on all of the things that could, and sometimes do, go wrong. Which, of course, makes sense in certain scenarios. But we can’t let our fear define our reality. Change follows the focus of your attention, so focus on what you aspire to be. Change follows the focus of your attention, so focus on what you aspire to be – not on what you fear. Click To Tweet

  1. We think the best way to help you grow is with feedback.

Feedback is used to point out flaws or weaknesses so they can be fixed; but people don’t learn that way. They learn through insight and reflection; recognizing, then refining, the patterns that are intrinsically a part of them. That means that the raw material for your future greatness is your present goodness – so pay really close attention to the things that work and dial in on those. The raw material for your future greatness is your present goodness. Click To Tweet

Once we pivot our fixation with failure to focus on what’s working, and then start amplifying that – we are going to be so much more capable of seeing the best in ourselves and everyone around us.


  1. Karel Sovak September 10, 2019 at 3:28 AM - Reply


  2. Helen Dewar September 10, 2019 at 7:13 PM - Reply

    Perhaps we focus on failure & fear because that was our schooling? Those red marks on papers and negative comments from teachers “You can do better”) somehow get ingrained.
    Hopefully that has changed or is changing!
    …From an Ancient Mariner

  3. Cecilia McCollough September 11, 2019 at 8:15 AM - Reply

    I have heard you speaking only once. I am so grateful to have found this message. Thank you for your work to helping others.

  4. Barbara September 16, 2019 at 3:16 PM - Reply

    I’m so full of gratitude to be taught this truth by by mother, my personal and professional friendships. Amen.

  5. Greg Basham November 14, 2019 at 10:08 PM - Reply

    As a senior mens’ soccer coach for years and a youth baseball coach it was axiomatic that a player focusing on failure (strike outs, missed catches) will give his team more failure. No different than the golfer who joined our foursome one day only to get to the third hole and before he hit his first shot stated how he always hit 3 tee shots into the water before taking a drop on the other side, proudly did it for us.

    Focusing on your aspirations and the process and actions that will get to your desired goals is destined to get the results you hope to achieve.

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