For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about failure and how to shift the way we think about it. But what do you do when you’re in the middle of it? How to deal with an epic failure and get yourself back on your feet when all you really want to do is crawl under a rock and never come out again.
Now, I have a question here that was sent in by Kat from NYC, who asks:
“How do we handle failure and how to move on from it, logistically speaking? What can we do when failure strikes? How do we bite the bullet without getting a tooth broken?”
So I’ve got a few techniques today that will help you cope when you’ve thrown everything you’ve got into making something happen and you end up falling flat on your face in a spectacular, soul-crushing failure.
#1: Find One Good Thing.
Remember a couple of weeks ago and that book I mentioned, The Most Magnificent Thing? You may feel that your big fail was awful in every regard, and that there is no redeeming value in the situation whatsoever. But there is always at least one thing you did right or did well. Look for it, and you will find it; it’s always there.
#2: Stop Beating Yourself Up.
When we’ve failed at something, what so often happens is we fall into these negativity spirals with our thinking. We get so down on ourselves and how badly things went – we get so hyper-focused on the bad, that we end up drawing more and more bad memories to ourselves. We start dwelling on everything we’ve ever messed up or done wrong in our entire lives, and what happens is we start generalizing what we’ve done, to what we are. In other words, we get so focused on our failed actions, that we start to think that WE are failures ourselves. And that’s a huge dream-killer. You can’t do that to yourself. Just because something you did failed, does NOT mean that YOU, yourself are a failure. This is a key distinction that gets easily overlooked when we’re busy beating ourselves up.
So, as soon as become aware of the negative self-talk you’re subjecting yourself to after something has failed, actually tell yourself “STOP!”, and try refocusing. Find a memory of a time that something you did went really well and focus on that for a couple of minutes. This will help to stop the spiral and shift your mindset back to something more productive.
#3: Practice Self-Compassion.
If someone else that you cared about had just experience the same failure that you did, what would you say? What would you do? Would you laugh at them and start gloating, or call them a loser and tell them they’ll never make this happen for themselves? Would you rub salt in their wounds by reminding them of every other time they’ve messed up? No. If you’re a good friend, you’d try to support your friend. You’d try to help them rebuild their self-confidence. You’d remind them of times they’d done things really well, or you’d tell them about a time something they did really helped you. You’d try to make them laugh. Or you’d give them a hug and let them cry on your should until their tears had passed and they felt better.
And if you’d do that for a friend, then why can’t you do it for yourself. Find ways to restore your own confidence and make yourself feel better. Do something that you KNOW you do well. Watch a funny movie. Read something inspirational. Blast your favourite tunes and dance around your living room singing lyrics at the top of your lungs. Do anything that will help you recover your sense of who you are and get you back on an even keel.
#4: Refine Your Technique
Realize that failure happens, and that success is a process rather than a concrete destination. Realize that the fact that you just failed means that you took a chance on something that was really important to you and you took action towards your dreams and goals. That’s more than most people will ever do, so give yourself some credit.
Then take some time to analyze the situation. What really happened? Where, specifically, did things go wrong? What particular aspect of your effort was the cause of the failure? If you were to do this again, what would you do differently? How can you improve or refine your technique so that your next attempt will be better? Make your changes and give it another go. View every failure that you experience as a learning experience and an opportunity to do things better next time.
Failure happens. You should expect a few failures before you get to where you really want to be in life. But learning how to deal with an epic failure involves a willingness to shift your perspective on what failure means. If you’re not failing at anything, it means you’re not doing anything new. And if you’re not doing anything new, it means you’re stuck in place. And if you’re stuck in place, you’re never going to build your dreams. So take a chance, and start having fun with your failures.
photo credit: pixabay.com cc (modified by me)