According to Roger S. Gil a mental health clinician that specializes in marriage and family therapy:

“The key to recognize and address denial is to pay attention to recurring negative themes. Recurring negative themes (e.g. a series of harmful relationships, negative side effects related to an addictive behavior, etc.) are good red flags for denial. Chances are that we are either creating an environment that is conducive to the negative outcome we don’t want or fooling ourselves into thinking that we have control over a situation that we really are helpless to affect. If you see a recurring theme, know that you’re probably denying a truth.”

Psychiatrist and addiction expert Judson Brewer has conducted research in the area of behavior sciences and proposes that curiosity is a key factor in changing your behavior.

His research suggests that “instead of fighting our brains, or trying to force ourselves to pay attention, we instead tapped into this natural, reward-based learning process? What if instead we just got really curious about what was happening in our momentary experience? As we learn to see more and more clearly the results of our actions, we let go of old habits and form new ones.
 Mindfulness is just about being really interested in getting close and personal with what’s actually happening in our bodies and minds from moment to moment. This willingness to turn toward our experience rather than trying to make unpleasant cravings go away as quickly as possible. And this willingness to turn toward our experience is supported by curiosity, which is naturally rewarding.”

In my research for my book last year I came up with a high level framework for learning from failure. 
• Accountability 
• Curiosity 
• Evaluation

The ACE framework is infused with concepts from authors Maxwell and Harford who both wrote best selling books about failure.

Accountability for your failures
• Avoid denial
• Accept lose and don’t chase it
• Don’t revise the effects of the failure. It matters. Don’t mislabel

Curiosity and Create a system for corrective action
• Try new things
• Experiment where failure is survivable

Evaluate and Learn from your failures
• Gather Feedback
• Remove emotions
• Don’t get too attached to your plan
• Creating Safe Spaces to Fail
• Commit only to what’s working

The first element in the ACE frame work is Accountability:

In order to take accountably for your failures you need to understand the three psychological effects that can occur after a failure and then what you need to do to avoid them. 
Frist Avoid Denial.
In Harford own words: “It seems to be the hardest thing in the world to admit we’ve made a mistake” If you can’t own a failure then you can’t make it right. The feeling of denial often occurs because of our erroneous definition of failure. No breakthrough in your life will occur if you remain in denial about your reality. 
Accepting losses.
Worse than denial is to double down and try to overcome the failure with more action and more effort all pointed in the wrong direction? Harford gave this example of how poker players who’ve just lost some money are primed to make riskier bets than they’d normally take, in a hasty attempt to win the lost money back and “erase” the mistake.
Self-serving life editing.
The last effect happens when we mislabel a failure or try to paint it a different shade in the effort to convince ourselves that the mistake doesn’t matter or that it wasn’t a failure in the first place. When we revise our own history we are setting ourselves up to repeat our failures.
If you can recognize this psychological effects then you can begin to be accountable and then make correct reactions to failure.

The second element in the ACE framework is curiosity and creativity for corrective action:

I use this term creativity because we are all very creative in coming up with ways of preserving our bad behavior through faulty triggers and imperfect systems. The curiosity and creativity I’m talking about is your ability to create a system that will allow you to learn from your failures and to fail successfully.
The first step is to set up a learning system which is based upon your analysis of what you need to learn to avoid a failure.
Systems or process have the power to change your behavior. Research in behavior sciences is suggesting that curiosity is a key factor in changing your behavior. For this step you need to set up a system that encourages curiosity and pattern recognition of current behaviors. This system will then lead you to target active learning experiences that address specific failures. 
Try new things
Next, try new things. Failures are often the results of well-worn in behavior patterns. You need to commit to trying new things to break these patterns and cycles. 
From a corporate perspective, Google has implemented this principle by trying different ideas and different approaches, on the grounds that failure is common and the more ideas you try the better your odds of hitting home run with one of them. 
Creating Safe Spaces to Fail
Failures can be private or they can be public based your role and position in life. In either case you should create spaces that are conducive to learning. A safe learning space can negate the emotion effects of a failure. Corporations that nurture failure and learning within the same framework can truly hack failure and shortcut to success.

The last element in the ACE framework is evaluating and learning from your failures.

Frist Gather feedback.
If you think you are doing okay but the feedback suggest otherwise this becomes an invitation to failure analysis. In fact most people live in failure because they don’t seek nor observe feedback clues. 
Feedback is essential for learning. And in terms of projects and work initiates, feedback will help you determining which experiments have succeeded and which have failed. Get feedback often and from more than one person, 
Next, Remove emotions from the equation.
“It’s important to be dispassionate at times about the feedback you receive or perceive.” –Harford. Failures can stir up deep emotions. At times you need to look beyond the words of feedback and see it in context. 
The key driver in getting feedback and removing emotion is to remember, that regardless of how bad things are or how bad you perceive them to be, you are wining because you know the truth and the cost and benefits of moving forward are worth paying.
As Hartford said. “Being able to recognize a failure just means that you’ll be able to re-cast it into something more likely to succeed.”

Also, don’t get too attached to your plan.
We sometimes spend a lot of energy planning and hoping. The seductive nature of planning is that we tend to think plans mitigate all risk and all failure. The Titanic or the Death Star comes to mind.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
-Mike Tyson

Experiment where failure is survivable.
If you need to learn a new skill try it out in an environment that is safe and the risk of getting it wrong is low. For example if you need to improve your persuasion skills try to persuade a close friend first and then refine you skills before you try to persuade the CEO.
This level of practice will increase your ability to perform in a real situations. 
Our aptitude to learn is the key factor in our ability to overcome a failure. Remember failure only persists because we do not learn. 
The last step: Commit only to what is working
If you felt the effects of failure and you owned it and if you learn from it, you should be applying new skills, knowledge or attitudes. As a result you should see changes your behaviors. If these new skills or knowledge are working then go down that path and succeed. If you fail again start the A.C.E process gain.

Successful people have to try a lot things, but when you find the lever that works, then move quickly and replicate. In fact, startups that find a market and grow to meet demand are only in the 10% that succeed.

Without curiosity as mindset you are not prone to learn from failure. Curiosity can give you the energy to examine and pivot from a failure in very productive ways.


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The Value of Failure will help you embrace failure and learn from it.

Hacking Failure is a system that will help you pivot from mistakes and shortcut to success.

Originally published at