Cope with Failure General Strategies vs In school vs In Career ... and 2 more
Edited by Kathy McGraw, Maria Quinney
Famous inventor Thomas Edison famously said "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." The gist of the quote is that failure is a necessary part of the learning process whenever we try something new. Indeed, failure is a part of life. If you have never allowed yourself to fail, then you haven't been living life to the fullest. You haven't allowed yourself to risk anything.
Method 1: General Strategies
The following are strategies for coping with failure in general. The key seems to be reframe your failure in a productive way so that you learn from it and do not allow it to define or stifle you.
- 1Avoid personalizing it. Don't make your failure your identity; you are always more than your successes and failures. Whenever that little voice in your head tells you that you're a failure, stop and consider whether or not that's really true. It most probably isn't: there have been times in your life when you have done well and other times when you have not. None of them define who you are unless you allow them to.Advertisement
- 2Accept your feelings. Nobody enjoys failure and it makes us feel like crap when it happens. It's part of life and our successes would be meaningless without it. So, acknowledge your feelings and allow yourself to feel crappy about it for a while. If you feel like crying, let yourself cry. If you're frustrated, go for a walk to clear your head.Advertisement
- 3Remember that failure is a part of learning. Failure is inevitable when learning something new. Making mistakes is how we learn. Think back to when you were a child and you were learning how to skate or ride a bike. You probably fell down a lot before you got the hang of it. You didn't stop trying because of a few skinned knees or a bruised tailbone, right? It's the same with everything else.
- 4Talk to someone about it. Talking about your failure and your feelings about it with other people is cathartic and is helpful to moving on. It's particularly helpful if you can talk to someone who has been through it, too since it lets you know that you are not alone and that it is possible to overcome it.
- 5Find humor in the situation. A recent study discovered that people who use humor when thinking about and talking about their failures felt better about them at the end of the day than those who did not.Try not to take it so seriously; even the direst of situations can be funny if considered in a certain light. Laughter also releases endorphins, the body's feel-good hormone, which can counter negative emotions and make you feel better.
- 6Try again as soon as possible. There's a reason why your parents wanted you to get right back on the bike after you fell off: persistence pays off. Moreover, trying again right away helps to counter the fear that you will fail again as well as giving you another chance at success.
- 7Learn from your mistakes. Analyze what went wrong that caused you to fail. Look for specific behaviors or actions on your part that facilitated it and then work to change them so that next time, you will have a better chance of success. Always try to be as specific as you can.
- 8Find some inspiration. Look for things that inspire and amaze you. It can be the stories of people who have succeeded at what you want to do, or it could be the sun setting on the ocean or the way your cat seems to have springs in its legs when it jumps.
- 9Don't obsess over it. While it's okay to think about what went wrong, put a time limit on it. Overthinking a problem never leads to the solution and may even deter finding one. For instance, tell yourself that you will only think about your failure for one hour a day and no more.
- 10Stop seeking approval from others. While it's always nice to have the approval of those who matter most to us, it is not necessary, nor does it define who we are. There will always be someone who is disappointed in you or who doesn't approve. Stay true to yourself and keep moving forward regardless of what anyone else thinks.
Method 2: In school
Failing to do well in school can make you feel like you're stupid or that you are incapable of learning; however, that is not true. Everyone has a subject with which they struggle and some people learn differently from others. In addition to the general strategies for coping with failure above, here are some specific strategies aimed at school-centered failures.
- 1Get a tutor. If you have subjects that you have a hard time with, try to find a tutor to help you with them. Many colleges and high schools have tutoring programs that help people that are struggling with their classes. Visit the student center at your college or talk to your guidance counselor at your high school to find out about tutoring availability.Advertisement
- 2Study more effectively. You may not be studying in the most effective way for your learning style. For instance, you may be a visual learner as opposed to someone who learns well by reading. Or perhaps you need to hear someone talk to you about a subject to learn it best. Here is one way to determine your learning style, but there are other ways, as well. Speak to your college advisor or guidance counselor to find out about your school's resources for assessing learning style and what supports they have for the different ways people learn.
- 3Always get a good night's sleep before an exam. Try to study well ahead of the day of the test and get a good night's sleep rather than cramming for it. Studies have shown that students with well-rested brains did better on exams than students who had stayed up all night studying.
- 4Form a study group or join one. Studying with other students is an effective way to learn because you keep each other accountable and you can feed off each other's understanding of the subject. It's also a fun way to study, and of course, there's all that pizza, too.
Method 3: In Career
For many people, their careers tie into so much of who they are that a job loss is a devastating blow to their self-esteem and self-efficacy. Here are some strategies for coping with job loss and career failure.
- 1Re-evaluate your career choice. Maybe your old job didn't work out because it didn't suit you, or perhaps the industry your career was in has been shrinking lately. Whatever the case, losing a job is always a great time to re-evaluate where you are in your career and what else you can do with your skills. Take the time to research other industries to see where you might fit. Online is a great place to start, and there also career workshops offered by most unemployment offices in the country.
Method 4: In Love
Breakups are always hard to deal with. Here are some ways you can cope with failures in the romance department.
- 1Let yourself grieve. Breakups are traumatic experiences in our lives. It's a major loss, not unlike a death of a loved one. Give yourself time to process it. Cry, if you need to, and just let yourself feel the pain. It's going to hurt, but when you come out of the other side, you will be healthier emotionally and happier, too.
- 2Spend time with your friends. During a breakup is when you need your friends around you the most. Take comfort in their presence, talk to them about your feelings, and let them distract you from the pain for a while.
- 3Get back into your hobbies. Use this opportunity to rediscover your hobbies or pick up new ones.
- 4Work on your health. Go to the gym and start eating better. Make sure that you get enough sleep. Be kind to yourself.
- 5Go on a vacation. Have you always wanted to visit Paris? Go on a cruise? Spend a month in Fiji? Now that you are unfettered and free is the time to do it. Bring a friend with you, if you like.
Method 5: In Sports
It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game. While the aphorism may be true, defeat still stings. A lot.
- 1Recognize that losing is part of playing the game. In sports, everyone loses at some point. In fact, you can't have winners without losers. Also, just because you lost on a particular day doesn't make you a loser. Accept it for what it is and move on.
- 2Ask for help. Ask your coach or someone else with experience in your sport to help you improve. Often, a good coach or teacher can spot weaknesses in your performance and help you to overcome them with new training regimes or methods.
- 3Examine what went wrong. Look critically at your performance and examine it for flaws in technique or something else that you can improve on, then work to get better on it.
- 4Get inspired by other athletes. Read books by other athletes in your sport or watch performances for motivation to improve your own performance.
- 5Play another day. You might have lost today, but perhaps you will win tomorrow. Always try your best, and even when you lose, you still win the competition against yourself.