As humans, we loathe failure. Failure is a form of pain, and it is an instinct to protect ourselves from experiencing pain. Oftentimes, we take the easy way out and don’t try what we actually want just to avoid the feeling of failure.
When looking at successful people, we forget what it took for them to get there. We aspire to be where they are, and look at all they have accomplished throughout their life. But what these success stories forget to mention is all the failures – big or small – that went into their success story. Jose M. Hernandez, a former NASA astronaut, had applied and been rejected eleven times before he became an astronaut. Eleven times! Think about it, how many people would have been discouraged by these rejections? How many people would have given up after the first, second, or even third time of applying? If you look at your own life, what would you have done if you were in his place?
Failure is never easy, and sometimes, we find ourselves going in a downward spiral after failing a task or a goal. We may feel – for a lack of a better term – like a failure. However, failing does not make you a failure. Failing can actually be the perfect life lesson with a mindset shift.
What we can gain from failure:
A perspective shift
Instead of fear, approach a daunting task or goal with a sense of wonder and excitement. Only then is curiosity fostered. When you change your mindset, everything changes. You no longer think of failure as a bad thing; instead, it is an opportunity to explore and learn. After this shift in mindset, “failure” is no longer a means to an end, but a part of the process. It’s not even about the failure itself, but your response to it. Your energy is now focused on solving the actual problem. When you do end up failing – because we all will at some point – remember how this will end up helping you in the long run.
When we change our perspective on failure, we can learn so much more about ourselves. We accept all that we could and couldn’t do. We learn to fall in love with the process, rather than just the end result. Failure becomes the perfect opportunity to reflect back on our experiences and develop a better understanding of ourselves.
After failing, there are two options: to be overcome with regret and quit, or to build resiliency and try again. Resilience is defined as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties”. People who are resilient can sometimes look as though they have not failed, when in fact it is the opposite. They have failed so much, they are able to recover more quickly from new failures. Resilient people use failure to catapult into their next big opportunity.
When you succeed, you may have succeeded for many reasons and it’s very hard to pinpoint what those reasons are. But when you fail, it’s a very clear way of knowing how to not do something, and that can be just as valuable. When you really think about it, science is built on learning from failure. The Scientific Method is all about the process of elimination and figuring out what you don’t know.
Perfectionism is an obstacle on the path to courageousness. When we are focused on being perfect, we are constantly in a fear mindset. While being courageous doesn’t mean being fearless, it means we keep trying despite the fear. Courage doesn’t require perfectionism; it requires us always doing our best. Instead of focusing on being perfect, focus on being courageous.
Tips for overcoming failure:
Always try your best
Instead of focusing on the end result, focus on the process. When you try your best, you can with 100% certainty say you did everything in your control to succeed. When you try your best, you have no regrets with your decisions.
Keep a journal to log your feelings
One method that helps me to overcome failure is to write down my experiences in a journal. It helps me to think more clearly on how to move on after failure and reflect back on my experiences. Here is a worksheet you can use to write out your feelings and experiences.
Don’t take advice too personally
As a society, we associate failure as being a negative thing. When you share your failures, people may want to help and give advice. Sometimes, this advice may be helpful to you and other times, it may discourage you. I caution you to listen to advice from others with an objective lens. Take advice from others with a grain of salt and remember their advice is usually a projection of their own experiences.
Seek out resources discussing this topic
Learning from others can be a very valuable thing. This is why I encourage you to listen to podcasts, read books, and watch videos discussing this topic. Here’s a great TedTalk discussing this.
When you are content with what you have, failure doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. Fall in love with where you are currently, and everything will become an added bonus!
I hope this helps you on your journey. If you have any extra tips, feel free to add them below!