Failure is a given in life; expecting to sail through without a hiccup is unrealistic and sets you up to fall harder when failure does happen. Avoiding failure also prevents you from focusing on gaining the resiliency needed to cope with it, a vital element of bouncing back.
It is unfortunate that in societies obsessed with success and achievement, failure can be made to feel like the worst thing that could ever happen to a person. The reality is that failure is commonplace but so is overcoming it and pushing through to more successful endeavors in the future. Even where a failure cannot be salvaged, there is always something to be learned from it. In this article, you’ll learn a little about how to overcome failure through having the right attitude. When you don’t let the mishaps of life keep you down too long, then nobody else will be able to keep you down too long either.
Expect mistakes. Life’s hard knocks are as common as life’s success knocks. To expect the process of living to always be smooth sailing is to invite a lack of realism into your life. It happens to the best of us. Failure helps to create balance in your life and presents an opportunity for personal growth. Accepting the inevitability that things won’t always go your way is an important part of avoiding becoming bitter and twisted, or of preventing yourself from simply resting on your laurels and never pushing further to realize your full potential.
- Learn to love finding out that you’re wrong about something. That’s not failure; it’s enlightenment and the path to finding the right way.
- Read How to control perfectionism if this behavioral trait is holding you back in life. Perfectionism causes us to fear failure and to feel we’re personally a failure when we’re faced with it. Seeking to always be perfect sows our own seeds of disappointment. Trying and failing is a much better teacher of what it means to be human than never trying and never succeeding.
Remind yourself that you are good enough. Leo Babauta suggests that not believing we are good enough rests at the heart of fearing failure. Failures serve as proof of this greatest fear, causing us to want to withdraw and not try again for fear of being further exposed as inadequate and incapable. However, this fear is not founded in reality; nobody is perfect and everyone will err at various points in life. The real difference between people who become successful and overcome failure and those who do not comes down to how you manage failure and how you view its impact on you. Feeling inadequate is a commonplace human feeling that even very public, very successful people feel but they don’t let it keep them down. You are good enough; all you need is to give yourself the go-ahead to keep trying.
Remain calm. Whatever you’re feeling about a failure, don’t lose your composure over it. Look at it this way – it won’t make any difference to the outcome itself whether you blow your top or stay calm but it will take a lot less energy and maintain your reputationif you choose the latter response. If you’re really frustrated and angry, channel these emotions to motivate you to start again.
- Don’t take your anger out on others. It’s not good to bottle up feelings, but you can’t go around taking out your anger on those around you for no good reason. Go for a run, a swim, or a boxing session to relieve tension and give you space to think. Just do something focused and energized to distract yourself from the initial intense feelings until they calm.
- Take your time. People don’t usually recover from a large failure overnight. It takes time for the emotions to heal. That doesn’t mean you’re entitled to mope though. This time is better spent going over how to do it better next time and building up your resilience.
Forget about how other people view you. Not only will any very obvious failure soon be yesterday’s news, but if you think other people are judging you (and maybe they are, maybe they aren’t), it won’t be long before they’re too busy worrying about their own failures to sling mud at yours. After all, everyone’s going to fail now and then; inflicting gloating on someone else has a way of boomeranging right back, a reality which serves as a natural form of tapering off constant criticism. And ultimately, what’s it matter what the critics think? Most of the time they haven’t a clue what effort has gone into what you’ve done and what you’re trying to achieve – it’s all too easy to be an expert critic without being privy to the inside information. Allow each failure to serve as an opportunity to strengthen your determination in the face of criticism. This is a far more positive and self-sustaining response than giving in to believing the often nasty and thoughtless things other people can say.
Shift out of your head space. All of the negativityis in your head. The reality is that you will recover. And the bonus is that you will gain knowledge, insight, and experience – wisdom that only those who tried something can lay claim to. Step outside of your personal negative sphere and reach out to the people around you who care about you; enjoy their company and learn about how other people cope with failures instead of simply focusing on yourself.
- Visualize each failure as a stepping stone to a stronger, more resilient self. Treat each failure as a gift of learning what not to do in the future.
- Respect the humility that comes with failure. Too much success can sometimes lead us astray and cause us to grow an unwarranted sense of being infallible and feeling superior to others. Failure can knock the stuffing out of such unrealistic self-aggrandizement and help set you back on the right course.
Stop worrying, start laughing. Yes, the sun will come up again tomorrow. Yes, things might be miserable for a little while but how will worrying help? Think back to a time when you worried a lot. Did it make any difference? Most likely not, apart from giving you more wrinkles and gray hair. The greatest thing you can do for yourself during failure is to inject humorinto your reflection of what happened. While there will be a period in which you feel especially tender, being able to laugh at yourself for mistakes can be an important part of the healing process, readying you for moving on again. Being able to say “Oh I did that, ha, ha, such a way to stuff up, ha, ha!” is part of putting failure into perspective.
- Be very careful that you don’t take on other people’s mistakes or circumstances as being your failure. Humor is one way of telling you that you don’t need to carry the world on your shoulders and that sometimes, things just happen, no matter what you do or do not do.
Review what your failure has taught you. There are always things to take away from a failure, to inform your future direction. It might also be the case that you have made the failure seem worse than it is; partial failure is also partial success and if you can draw out what was successful and build on that, the sense of having failed lessens. Sociologist Hugh Mackay believes that we don’t value failure in the way we ought to. Stating that failure is often interpreted as a sign of personal inadequacy, he says that this denies its vital role as part of the process of maturation throughout life.In other words, the learning never stops and the lessons include:
- Failure can help you discover your best self. Failure is a signal that you’re willing to press on and discover new talents and the edge of your existing ones; reaching beyond what you know into what you don’t know.
- Failure is about mastery. It’s easy to flip from one new thing to another and be a Jack or Jill of many skills but a master or mistress of none. It’s much, much harder to have the patience to master one thing really well and to do it with precision and exactitude. And to master something, one must fail at it, a lot.
- Failure teaches you about will-power, persistence, self-discipline, and the value of hard work. One of the signs of living in fear of failure is distraction. When you allow distraction to overtake your life, you’re comforted that your distractions can hide your potential to fail. Ironically, distracting yourself is a failure in its own right – a failure to take the time to keep trying, to continue toward perfecting whatever you’re learning to do or seeking to become. Ultimately, failure teaches you the value of persistence and hard work.
Stay in the present. Fear of failure is a future projection of worry and a reliance on what happened in the past. If you’re stuck in this kind of thinking, you’re living life according to what might happen. Author Leo Babauta suggests that the response needed here is to “just do it, now, in the moment… bring yourself back in the moment and focus on what you’re doing right at this moment.” By remaining in the present, you stay focused on the potential of now and allow your creativity, smarts, and innovative drive to bloom. Past failures are foundational lessons for better understandings in the present and an improved sense of living now; the future is created through your commitment to the present rather than your present being lead by your fear of tomorrow’s possible losses. Embrace fear. Failure can only keep you down if you continue to fear it. Embrace the fear and you release yourself from its control. Allowing fear to control you renders you vulnerable to being controlled. Unchecked fear can cause you to let others make decisions for you in life; while that may be a recipe for not taking responsibility when things go wrong, it can also mean you lose your sense of creativity, innovation, and even your sense of self. Help show people it’s not only fine to fail but healthy to break this fear!
- Lists and goal journals are really helpful for some people when failure seems to happen often. If failure derails your thinking processes and leaves you feeling anxious, use such props to steer you back on course again. There is no shame in using them, nobody expects fast and organized thinking to happen all of the time, and for some people it’s overwhelming to be expected to always think like that. Organize yourself well and things will seem less arduous to tackle when you get back on your feet.
- Step back a bit, give yourself some breathing room. One thing that can help cushion failure at something large is to do some small, easy things that you know you’ll succeed in, whatever they are. Steady, slow progressive success at something else, like learning to draw and not expecting a masterpiece but just to succeed at “draw something every day” or an easy exercise regimen like “walk daily at the most convenient time” can help to cushion the failure of a large project.
- Don’t take it as your failure if something was dependent on other people’s decisions and actions. If your project didn’t get accepted and was a good project, it still is a success. Many people fear “failure” in situations that are so unpredictable success and failure don’t apply to them at all.
- Count every trial as an act of courage, a small success in itself. Building persistence can accomplish enormous things and turn all the failed trials along the way into minor successes. A writer seeking to get published could pin up every rejection slip as proof that they’re a real writer, doing the job the way the job really works. A successful sales representative looks at the proportion of successes to failures and gets used to “No” most of the time as just part of the job.
- Don’t expect overnight miracles to occur. You can’t get over a huge setback fast but you can care for yourself while you mend and not dive deeper into despair. Remember that you’re not the first to fail, you won’t be the last, and you will bounce back again if you allow yourself. Yes, it is a choice to make, so choose to come back stronger.
- Don’t let failing bring you down. If you were determined and you failed, try again. A man who fought failure all his life but will always be remembered for his tenacity and endurance is Winston Churchill. He once said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm”. And he lived out that belief despite tremendous odds.
- If millions of others have gotten through failure, so will you. Don’t let ideals of perfectionism stunt your growth and do not compare yourself to success stories; those success stories contain many failures that never get spoken about.
- And if ever you find yourself thinking self-piteously: “I wish I were as lucky as X”, remember that luck is for leprechauns. Life is about good management, not luck.
- Don’t make it seem like the end of the world – it’s not! Get over whatever has happened and move on with your life. And if you can’t do it alone, find help and talk it through with a trusted friend, a family mentor, or a therapist. Do not suffer in silence, it will only eat you up and embitter you.
A Little Black Pen and Calmyelle.