When we study the stories of successful people, we learn about the failures throughout that journey – about the adversity they faced and the attitude they had which enabled them to overcome and succeed. You and I are not so different from them – we need only the right mentality to move forward. Many people attribute their successes to the invaluable lessons learned through their failures. Their greatest common strength is perseverance – they remained disciplined and pursued their dreams to the end.
Nothing worth having comes without hard work, and the work wouldn’t truly be difficult if it always resulted in success. Part of the grind is managing how we feel after failing and ensuring that we use the experience as a chance to learn. Acting with this mindset is what enables failure to lead to success; how we view failure makes all the difference in what we gain from it. If we act with a mindset that failing is only negative, with nothing to gain from it, we tell ourselves a story of defeat. In this state of mind, we don’t recognize growth opportunities. However, if we use failures as learning moments, from which we can gain insight into our approach and understand why it didn’t work, we can design creative solutions and plan alternative approaches.
Don’t Run From Failure
The first step in moving forward is to embrace failure. While it can be tempting to distract ourselves from feeling negative emotions after a failure, doing so will only bring temporary relief, not long term fulfillment. When we embrace failure, we can find value in analyzing what went wrong and work on creating solutions.
During this process of analyzing, it’s important to keep in mind that failure is a learning opportunity, and when learning we have to be kind to ourselves. Therefore, calling ourselves ‘stupid’, or any other negative self talk is not helpful. We are the stories we tell ourselves, so, we should give ourselves “feedback” in a kind manner that reinforces a story of success and growth.
When I find myself met with failure, I have an internal conversation that allows me to process my emotions, learn from the experience, and use my new knowledge to create a different approach. This conversation is essential because it eliminates a desire to waste time and allows me to move forward with a positive outlook. Here is the breakdown of the conversation I have:
Feel how you feel. “It’s okay to feel angry, sad, and embarrassed. It’s uncomfortable right now, but I won’t push my feelings away by distracting myself. I feel hurt, but I know this will pass if I let myself feel without distraction. If I don’t let the process unfold organically, these emotions will come up later on – unresolved and with built up pressure, almost guaranteed to be explosive.”
How to cope. “I am tempted to fall into bad habits to distract myself, such as eating junk food or smoking, but I want to avoid making decisions that negatively impact my happiness. To help me find peace and also allow me the space to deal with my emotions, I can call a friend, spend time journaling, or go for a walk.”
Redefine what failure and success are. “It is only failure if I choose to give up. I will persist. I am inspired by others who have failed more times than myself, but have created success anyway. As long as I stay on my path, I will find success.”
Eliminate self-directed verbal abuse. “I’m not a failure because this attempt was unsuccessful. I am not stupid or incapable. I will not associate failing at this task with myself being a failure. I remain confident that I will find a better solution. I have gained knowledge and experience, and am more prepared to succeed.”
Limit the pity party. “I will let my feelings run their course, and then I will move on. Allowing myself to be haunted by my failure will not change the outcome. Actually, it will only make me feel worse, keeping me stuck in a cycle of berating myself and feeling unmotivated to move forward. I cannot change what has happened, but I can choose to move forward with determination. I will leave these negative thoughts behind and prepare for the next steps.”
The Next Steps
Anytime we fail, we find ourselves with two options: we can choose to be bitter or become better. Our perspective – the story we tell ourselves, is all that really matters. Failure is where we can find growth and learn life lessons, if we have our minds focused on that. We must persist, through failure and rejection, to create our own success. After following a process to deal with the aftermath of failure, we will be ready to move forward. We have no use for ruminating on our past failures.
This plan for the next steps will guide us to success.
Moving forward, do for ourselves. Often, we fear the judgement of others and let ourselves be too heavily influenced by what they think. This causes us to act in fear rather than focused determination. Keeping in mind that it is our own life, not anyone else’s, will allow us to dictate our own truth. This is our power.
If we allow what other’s think about our lives to rule and direct our choices, we will never find fulfillment – and how could we if we aren’t following our own heart? At the end of the day, we can’t control what other people think. Even if we strived to meet the expectations of everyone else, there is no guarantee that their judgement will be any different. However, when we focus on our own long term desires, we will be on a path of fulfillment.
Reevaluate. In the aftermath of a failure, we should check in with ourselves and make sure we are working towards something we really want. It is not uncommon for us to spend time and energy towards goals set by others that don’t align with our own desires. Maybe the reason we were met with failure this time around is because our heart wasn’t invested in the work, and we should consider working towards something we are passionate about (or discovering our passions if we aren’t sure). These kinds of check-ins are great for keeping us accountable to ourselves and our goals. If we reevaluate and feel strongly that this is what we crave, then we will be able to set our intention accordingly and commit to creating and following a plan that will lead to success.
Plan for future failures. Before we analyze the past and create a plan for the next attempt, we should accept that failures are a natural and crucial part of any journey, and being prepared for them means they won’t be as overwhelming. This doesn’t mean we should expect to fail, but be ready to learn if we do.
Analyze the past failure. The last step before looking forward, is looking back. We can use our failure as a resource to learn from – to understand what went wrong and why. By seeking explanations rather than excuses, we will know what to change on our next attempt. Without anger or shame, we should ask ourselves these questions:
- What went right?
- Who/what caused that to go right?
- What went wrong?
- Who/what caused that to go wrong?
- Do I need to improve certain skills before trying again? If yes, how do I work on that? Do I need external help?
- Is there someone I can learn from?
- Was I too focused on fear during my previous attempt? What can I do to boost my confidence during my next attempt?
Create a new plan. When we have a clear idea of what worked and what didn’t, we can determine the changes to make before continuing on the path to success. We should consider the following when coming up with a new approach:
Is there someone I can speak with to gain a different perspective?
How will I incorporate what worked from last time into my new plan?
What will I not include (based on what went wrong) in my new plan?
Now, we have a new plan and more experience and knowledge than before. We are ready to put our plan into action and turn failure into success.
What do you plan on trying differently?
About the Author: Mo RAMCHANDANI, Monthly Mentor, is an avid explorer of the Earth and all her people. His adventures and volunteerism, both local and global, have been the building blocks of his heart’s truest passion: purpose coaching. With a background in action sports coaching and software development, Mo works to battle against an ever growing atmosphere of people living life dispassionately. Mo helps people create a life they can be proud of, by working on any and all aspects of their life such as career, health & fitness, relationships, and hobbies. Read More…