Failure is a funny one when you think about it. It’s often something we truly dread. Fear of failure, or not dealing with failure properly is something that can derail us from achieving our goals or even stop us from even taking the all-important first step. It can be a major roadblock to fulfilment in life. Yet we know deep down that everyone fails in life on the road to success, and we know from experience that we learn from mistakes. So why do we fear it so much and what can we do to bounce back from failure even stronger, using it as a stepping stone to growing as a person and achieving our goals? We look at five steps for successfully dealing with failure.
On a personal level, looking back, there are times when a fear of failure could have been major road blocks to where I am today. Likewise when I think of certain projects which ended in failure, in hindsight the lessons leaned as a result of those failures gave me the valuable experience I could take advantage of during future successes. I am sure when reading these, you will be able to reflect on your own past experiences and then hopefully use these steps to inspire you in the future.
1. Recognise and accept your inevitable and natural emotions to failure. After having invested so much into your efforts yet falling short, you’re very likely going to feel a mixture of disappointment, frustration, anger or sadness. Don’t try to hide from your feelings. Take some time to let them run their course but know that this is temporary and do not allow yourself to dwell any longer than necessary. You need to let the fog of your initial reaction to the failure clear before moving forwards, so try not to overreact or take any drastic decisions during this period as this is not the time.
2. Now this is much harder said than done, but try not to worry about what others think. Release the need for approval of others as when you think about it, it often lies the root of our fear of failure. What will people think of me? What will they say? How will I be able to show my face if I do my best and I fail? These are questions that swirl around our minds, but we can never control what people think of us, no matter what we do. We should never lead our lives purely to please others nor define ourselves by others’ standards of success or failure.
3. Recognise that this failure does not make YOU a failure. Don’t take it personally and do not let it define you. If it helps, remind yourself of your past failures and successes. You’ve learned lessons before and come back stronger, and you’ll succeed again as you have in the past. What’s more, remember that the most successful people in the world admit to and embrace their past failures on their road to success. We look at these people and we see them as the successful people they are today. We think ‘that person is a success’, and ‘they are not a failure’. But this ignores their long journey to where they are today.
Here is a great example of this mindset:
"I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan
For more examples, why not check out one of the podcasts I recommended in a recent blog: How to Fail with Elizabeth Day. The entire concept is based around this idea, and it is truly inspirational.
4. Accept your responsibility in the failure. Now that your initial emotional reaction to the failure has blown over, examine the truth of the matter in a more analytical way. Why did it fail? What part did you play in it? Be truthful to yourself and don’t push all the blame onto others or external factors. Once you’ve accepted your part in the failure, however uncomfortable that may be at first, by taking a more analytical approach to the matter you can accept it, stop dwelling on it and put yourself in the perfect mindset to move onto the final step.
5. Use failure as a way to improve and move forward - view it as a learning opportunity. This really is the key and the difference maker between those who dwell unhappily on their failures and then live in fear of failing again, and those who build upon their experiences and come out stronger. You may want to journal about your experiences, write down the lessons you’ve learned and how you’ll take advantage of these lessons going forwards. I’m sure you can imagine we are big proponents of the benefits of writing your thoughts down here at Hello Day.
So what lessons can you learn from your past failures? Personally, we started an online business back in 2010 while we lived in Barcelona. It didn’t last and we could have viewed it as a failure. But we didn’t = we enjoyed the journey and we learned a lot. In fact the experience we gained was invaluable 4 years later when starting Hello Day. Even so, there were points during the long process of starting Hello Day that the fear of failure got to me and it all seemed too much, with too much at risk. Who will buy one? Why would someone buy something form me? Will people like the designs? And on and on. But we faced our fears together and moved forwards - and I am so so pleased we did.
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