Failure, Ta-Da!! A Game for Self-Compassion

Posted: August 18, 2014 in Games
Tags: , , , ,

I had a bit of my old self-criticism rise up within me this past week, so I thought that it might be a good time to share a game (and next week a story) focused on the theme of self-compassion. Compassion and kindness towards others is often presented as a major component of mindfulness training, yet if we can’t be kind towards ourselves our outward-directed compassion will only go so far. And many of us could use a bit of self-compassion—as my wife is fond of saying, if we treated others the way we treat ourselves inside our own head, it would be considered abusive!

So here’s a wonderfully funny game that turns our relationship with failure on its head, from self-criticism to celebration. The instructions below are from Ted DesMaisons’ blog, replicated here with permission from the author.


  • …Each person comes in front of the room one at a time.
  • After “claiming” the stage, that person shares with pride a made-up failure of theirs. Something like, “I put a pair of new blue jeans in with my mother’s clothes and everything turned blue,” is great—not completely inconsequential (like “I forgot to turn the lights off when I left home”) but also not devastating or traumatic (like “I ran over my dog…twice”).
  • Once they’ve shared the ‘failure’, the rest of the group gives them a wild and rousing ovation in celebration.
  • The person on stage should take a grand and vigorous, deep “ta-da!” bow, soaking in the applause to full effect. The game finishes when everyone’s had the chance to celebrate having ‘failed.’

Instruction Notes:

  • …Emphasize that the failures should be made up once the person gets to the stage. You don’t want to initiate a therapy session here.
  • Often times, kids will shrink from the applause and will want to take a quick bow and run off stage. The whole point is to soak it in. What would it be like if we celebrated our failures?
  • Make sure to model what you’re looking for before they start. If they see you delighting in the exercise, they’ll give themselves much more permission to do so.

Application Notes:

  • Make sure to explain why you’re playing this game before you play it or to debrief it afterward: we’re trying to create a new relationship to what we think of as failure. When we fail, it often means we’re pushing ourselves to develop new skills. It means we’re taking risks. And our so-called ‘failures’ can lead us to possibilities we never would have imagined. That’s all worth celebrating.

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