Failure. Something we actually don’t want to experience. But most of the times it is unavoidable. Some people told me that any fail will help you improve, and I know they are right. But it still isn’t fun to me. So when I found this book on failure, titled “de kunst van het falen”, which means ‘the art of failure’, I decided I needed to know more about it.
So, the book is called ‘the art of failure’. It is written by a Dutch work- and organisation psychologist. It is a book based on academic research, which I like, and not pretending to be a self-help book in any way. Although it still can be read that way, for it provides some very good insight and advise.
What does the book learn?
It is helpful to believe in the grow-theory. This means you believe that your intellect isn’t a fixture. It means that you believe that you are able to learn new things and develop. People who suffer from performance or evaluation anxiety often don’t believe in the grow-theory. They believe that they can do something, or can’t. If those people experience a success, they proceed doing it the way they did it, for any other way will not lead to success. If those people experience one failure, they believe they can’t do it at all. If those people experience a lot of failure, most of the time they are self-handicapping themselves, because they want to protect themselves from a failure experience. And how does someone protect themselves from a failure experience? Well; by not doing anything at all of course. Yes, I know; it’s sad, but it happens to a lot of us.
If you cling to the grow-theory, you’re most likely oriented towards learning goals. This is opposed to being performance goal oriented. Being learning goal oriented is what this book is about, for if you are, you will perform better. Sounds crazy, right? But performance goal oriented people only have one thing in their minds: to perform the way they want to. They don’t spend much time to think about the way to get to their desired performance. The road towards a performance is mostly a learning process. If you don’t want to learn, and you’re only focused on performing, you’re clueless.
The book also tells about how we learn. Aware and unaware. The author tells us how our brain works, but more importantly, how we get motivated to learn. We need to feel autonomous, we need to feel competent and we need to feel connected to other people. But most of the time we only feel competent when we have a success experience. This success experience is most valuable if it is received by doing something challenging.
Research has shown, however, that learning goal oriented people often choose more challenging goals for themselves, than performance goal oriented people do. That’s probably because the performance goal oriented people are a bit afraid to fail. And, as a result, the performance goal oriented people do fail more often, and after their failure, they barely learn from it, for learning isn’t their goal. So they decide they just aren’t able to reach their goal. In contrast to the learning goal oriented people,… of course.
What did I learn?
When painting, I’m very performance goal oriented. I want to produce a certain amount of paintings in a year, I want finish them within a limited amount of time and I want them to be perfect. I’m very much focused on getting compliments, I want people to love my paintings. As a result, I don’t produce as much as I would want to. In 2015 I only finished the 3 paintings shown on this page. I am not as motivated to paint as I used to be, because I’m only focused on production. If I would focus on learning, I probably would revive the joy in painting and produce more.
So, what to do?
In the last chapter, the book discretely reveals itself as a self-help book,… for it gives a road-map on being more learning goal oriented:
- name the obstacles
- how can you overcome these obstacles?
- set goals to overcome the obstacles
- monitor progress
- give yourself rewards for achieving goals
The author repeats several times that the art of failure, is to experience every moment of failure, as a learning moment. But hey; we all already knew that, didn’t we?
But okay, I will give it a try. I need to give this approach a try, for I really want to revive my motivation and actually get better in painting. And, well; I want to produce more,.. but that won’t be my goal anymore. It won’t. No; it definitely will not.