3 Ways to Succeed at Failing


Failures are inevitable to living life. If we were to never fail, we would never really have any motivation to succeed, grow, or change, which would make life a little boring. Still, we are faced with the challenge of overcoming the emotional baggage that comes with failing. Here are some ideas to ease the pain of coming up short.

  1. Treat failures like learning experiences. This is easier said than done, but when you treat failures like learning experiences, you can grow more rapidly than learning from successes. First, reframing is a powerful tool in and of itself. The use of positive self-talk is emblazoned upon many a motivational poster, but regardless of its tacky notoriety, it really works because perception is reality. We also grow quickly from failures because upon failing, we typically feel some level of pain. If we listen to that pain and “let it burn,” we will be that much less likely to commit the same failure again in the future. Which leads us to…

  2. Take responsibility for your feelings. It is more than OK to feel crappy after a failure. Not only is it normal, but, like we said before, pain has a way of pushing us to grow at a rapid pace. If we never acknowledge the pain we feel when we fail, we are not likely to benefit. It’s natural to want to avoid uncomfortable feelings, but avoidance leads to more suffering. As with anything, it’s important to practice boundaries and balance. It is helpful to acknowledge feelings, but not helpful to allow those feelings to overwhelm us to a breaking point. Let your pain burn, but don’t let your pain destroy. Just like when you're working out, pain is a sign of growth only to a certain point. There is a difference between muscle soreness and muscle injuries. Same thing goes for your mental fitness.

  3. Don’t call yourself a loser. Watch out for the ever-destructive all or nothing thinking patterns that so many of us get into the habit of using. Not succeeding at something that one time, (or even many times), doesn’t magically turn you into a complete failure. If you can think of at least one time in your life when you have succeeded, then that means you can’t accurately call yourself a failure. Why is it that we tend to use all or nothing thinking for negative material, but not as much for positive? I recently won a game of poker against a group of friends. If I apply the all or nothing thinking consistently, wouldn’t this one success make me a complete winner? All or nothing thinking is ridiculous and unmotivating from both perspectives, isn’t it? So, how can you reframe failures:

All or nothing pattern:

  • I didn’t get one of the jobs I applied for.

  • I failed at getting a job.

  • I’m a failure.

Let’s reframe this:

  • I didn’t get one of the jobs I applied for.

  • I failed at getting a job.

  • I need to make a plan and reevaluate my resume and strengths before applying to the next job.

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