Why do we fail and how to cope with failure?
Failure is not a pleasant experience.
Failure is a part of life, at some point we all experience it and we actually need it sometimes.
Who fails and who doesn't?
It is easier not to fail if you don't try anything new, but if you are constantly trying different things, exploring new options and getting out of your comfort zone, chances are you will fail more than someone who is not moving out of their comfort zone.
This is not a reason to be scared, instead, learning to see your failures as an opportunity for growth will give you resilience and grit in the long term.
How to cope with failure?
Here are some useful tips to cope with failure and take the most out of it when you experience it.
1. Take accountability:
The first and more important step after failing is taking accountability. This allows you to own your failure, fully experience it and grow. If you make excuses for whatever happened and blame someone else for your failure, you will see the failure as an external event and you’ll neglect it, you will end up having a pity party, which leads to immaturity and unawareness.
Even if the reasons for your failure are external, I highly recommend to own your failure and take accountability as much as you can for it, on a personal and intimate level; reaching this step is the only thing that will take you to the next one.
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2. Acceptance and moving forward.
The risk of not owning your failure is joining a pity party for yourself.
The risk of staying in the first step refusing to accept and move forward is getting stuck in frustration and fear of trying again.
Think about it this way:
Bad emotions are just an indication that something is wrong, either we are not doing something right, or they arise as a way of protecting ourselves against damage; in the same way failure is just an indication that we didn't get it right this time. It doesn't mean that you will never reach your objective, it doesn't mean that you are doomed to failure, it doesn't necessarily mean that you are not capable. It means that in your way to accomplish your goal, you took the wrong path this time.
Lucky you, most of the times you can always go back and try again, turn around and take another road that takes you to your destination.
Make sure to accept your failure. This acceptance is not a passive acceptance, it is mindfulness acceptance.
It is fully grasp and internalize that you can't win every single time in life, but with every failure you will take the chance to learn and get closer to your destination.
Remind yourself that life is not fair, and just because you work so hard on getting something that doesn’t mean you will get it.
Accepting that concept is liberating.
"What matters is not sit back licking your wounds, what matter is how you bounce back"
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3. Analyzing your failure / Check your patterns
Analyze your failure is important, so you decrease the odds of doing the same mistake in the future.
Be careful, sometimes there are obvious reasons of why we failed, but sometimes the most important reasons are hidden in our unawareness.
It is worth asking yourself some questions:
- What is the nature of this failure? What are the external causes and what are the internal causes?. This is ok to ask, because you have already taken mindful acceptance of the present, so you are recognizing external causes from a place of awareness instead of a "blaming on others" place.
- Is there a pattern that I can identify for this failure? Is there anything similar that I can identify or correlate between this failure and past failures?
- Are there any indications that I might be sabotaging myself? If so, which one?
- Rebuild the story of what went wrong. What could I have done that I didn't do BUT I can do in the future to increase my chances of success.
- What habits I don't have right now that I can build and work on, to increase the possibilities of reaching my goal.
- Do I really want to keep pursuing this goal? Be very careful with this question, it is an important question, but it must be made from a place of maturity and awareness. You don't want to just give up on a goal, but you also need to make sure you want or need whatever you are pursuing.
Some failures are a blessing in disguise.
- Are you surrounding yourself with people who wants your success? With people who have your winner attitude? With people that will encourage you and support your best interest?
- What did I learn? How will I change my strategy or approach to get closer?
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4. Be your best in the darkest moments.
This is one of the lessons in the book Make your bed by admiral William McRaven.
It is hard, but if you master this step, it will probably change your attitude and your life.
This step is basically a resilience and grit builder.
It is very easy to be your best when everything is going well, but it is very hard to be your best when you are going through bad moments in your life.
It is also common sense that you need to be stronger, faster, smarter in your darkest moments. You need mental toughness.
In words of admiral McRaven:
"At some point we will all confront a dark moment in life. If not the passing of a loved one, then something else that crushes your spirit and leaves you wondering about your future. In that dark moment, reach deep inside yourself and be your very best.
You must rise above your fears, your doubts, and your fatigue."
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5. Be kind with yourself.
Most of us had a friend or a family member who was our support and gave us hope in a bad moment.
A real friend, a person who showed us love. Someone who was there when we needed the most.
You need to become that person as well, probably you are already that person for others, but not for yourself.
If you did everything right in steps 1 and 2, you should be able to show yourself some self-compassion.
Kindness with yourself. Become that internal friend that tells you "Don't worry buddy, you'll get it next time. It is not over yet".
As Jordan Peterson mentions in 12 rules for life "Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping". He was not talking about failure when he mentioned this rule, but I think it fits perfectly the idea.
Imagine how different would be the world if everyone had a positive self-talk instead of an inner negative talk/ critic.
Olivia Fox makes a great description of self-compassion in the charisma myth.
"Individuals score high in self compassion demonstrate greater emotional resilience to daily difficulties and fewer negative reaction to difficult situation such as receiving unflattering feedback.
Higher self-compassion predicts greater sense of personal responsibility for the outcome of events. It helps predict levels of accountability, lower tendency for denial, less self-criticism.
Self-compassion: feeling that what happens to you is unfortunate, leads to feelings of connectedness. It is what help us to forgive ourselves when we are falling short
Self-pity: what happens to you is unfair, leads to resentment. "
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6. Create a new strategy or approach.
Create your new plan to conquer your goal.
Set up milestones and correct what could have been done differently from the first time.
Remember to create a realistic forecast.
There is a technique that calls for thinking about a future scenario where you failed, and then thinking in retrospective listing all the reasons that lead to failure.
In that way you can work on those now and avoid them from happening.
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7. Focus in the journey, not in the destination.
By this time, you have a new strategy and you probably have new milestones.
Remember to check them and make corrections in your trajectory if needed.
Celebrate every tiny progress and compare yourself exclusively with your past self not with someone else.
When you compare yourself with someone else you are not getting the full picture, you are seeing their success, but you are not seeing their problems, their failures, the things that don't work in their life, their struggles or how much time, energy and work they put to get to the point where they are.
Let's face it. In the society we live in, talking about failures is considered foolish.
We talk about our success and hear the success of others, but our failures are personal, secret, hidden.
No one wants to feel vulnerable.
The truth is that everyone has faced failure at some point in life, it is a part of life.
As the poet said, "the pains like joys make a person grow".
Let your failures be a powerful lesson, take the most out of them as an opportunity to improve.
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8. Ask for feedback while taking the journey.
One of the most important things that can prevent you from failure is receiving feedback at the right time.
Some people are reluctant to receive feedback. Do not take it personal.
Think about it as a way to prevent a future failure.
You are driving your car to your dreamed destination (goal); it's better to be aware where you are heading and be able to correct your trajectory than crashing the car without ever reaching the destination.
Feedback is a GPS. It helps you to keep on track.
Make sure you get it from honest people who is invested into your wellbeing.
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9. Use some charisma.
The way to your goals will be paved with challenges.
Developing some charisma will help you in your endeavors.
Having friends here and there looking for your success instead of envying you is a very effective way to get to your goal faster while enjoying the journey.
Let people feel invested in your success.
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10. Be consistent
The reason of many failures is a lack of consistency. It is not laziness or procrastination, those are just the consequence of inconsistency.
Consistency and grit are skills that anyone can develop.
Grit is what allows some people to stick with their goals on the long term, to keep the work, to gain the habits.
Hold yourself accountable and do not let yourself skip a task twice in a row because sooner that you think you will be slacking off.
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