Student - July 27, 2020

Blog: The power of re-framing failure

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Blogger Katrin visited a masterclass The Art of Failure. She learned two tricks to help her cope with the difficulties of her PhD.

During WUR’s surf your stress week 2019 I attended a seminar where we learned about how to cope with failure via a new grading system that a school in the USA has introduced. If students cannot reach a certain level in class, they receive a grade that says 'not yet'. It is supposed to empower students, as it re-frames the fact that they had practically failed.

This kind of grade leaves room for growth and indicates that the kids can still reach the point of passing later. This really resonated with me and I wrote 'NOT YET' on a Post-it which I taped on my computer screen at work. Now every time an experiment fails, I look at the note and remember that I can still manage another time. This helps me to find the energy and motivation for new attempt with this experiment.

People usually don’t focus on the effort that is put into being successful

Another interesting subject we learned about is the so-called iceberg illusion which describes the efforts that are put into success and how others perceive them. It can be summarized in an image that shows success as the tip of the iceberg. As this is what people tend to put their focus on. What people usually don’t focus on, is the effort that is put into being successful. This is the part of the iceberg that is below the surface.Hard work, sacrifice, failure, persistence, and dedication are all inevitable.

We tend to overlook that others have to work hard for their victories, we only focus on their success. This perception can prevent us from pursuing our goals, as we give in to the illusion that we cannot succeed since it is too hard for us. However, the image of the whole iceberg destroys this illusion, as it shows that the key to success is hard work. I definitely tend to think that others reach their goals much easier than me. Whenever I get this feeling now, I think of the iceberg and that helps me to put my energy into achieving my goals.

Katrin Heidemeyer came to Wageningen in 2014 to do her Masters, and started her PhD at the Laboratory of Biochemistry thee years ago. She hails from Germany.


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