The No. 1 Way to Overcome Failure

How to keep making forward progress after a failure

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Photo Credit: Ryan McGuire through Pixabay

How many times have you thought, “I failed,” or even worse, “I am a failure”?

If you answer honestly, the answer is likely many. Failure is a lack of success, lack or performance, or lack of desired results, and we all fail at one time or another. Many times, we fail, and we decide to give up, throw in the towel, and never try anything similar again. This downward spiral is self-sabotaging, and it will definitely prevent further progression forward in our personal and/or professional lives.

Failure can show up in so many ways, and only you know how failure has been present in your life.

Maybe… You had an idea that you shared at work and you were met with criticism. You decide you failed, and to prevent uncomfortable future failure, you never speak up in a meeting again.

Maybe… You totally bombed your first presentation. Your failure leads you to decide you can’t do presentations ever again.

Maybe… You didn’t perform well at a job interview, and you didn’t receive the promotion. You failed, so why bother applying for a better position again.

The problem is not the failure itself. As I said, we all fail. The problem is how we allow that failure to dictate our future. There are some basic shifts that need to happen to overcome failure, and it boils down to perspective.

Shifting your perspective is the number one way to overcome failure.

When you start the negative downward spiral after a perceived failure, ask yourself these key questions:

# 1: What can I choose to be grateful for?

Gratitude changes your attitude. Intentionally think about something you are grateful for. It can be completely non-failure related, but it is important to choose to think about something that creates positive thinking. Health studies have shown that positive thinking reduces cortisol (your stress hormone) levels in your brain. Shift to gratitude.

# 2: What did I learn? How can I grow from this experience? What will I do differently next time?

When you choose to focus on what you learned, you are shifting to a growth mindset. A growth mindset, founded by Dr. Carol Dweck and extensively discussed in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, is the concept that it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success, but it’s our effort to learn and grow as well. When you focus on learning and growing, and you intentionally give less negative attention and value to your failure, you can step into creativity, innovation, resilience, motivation, and enhance your ability to overcome fear. Choose to perceive your failure as an opportunity to learn, an opportunity to grow, and an opportunity to do something differently/better next time.  

# 3: How can I be proud of myself right now?

Often times, with failure comes feelings of self-doubt, coupled with lack of self-confidence and self-worth. When you allow those feelings to have power, you are allowing the failure to dictate the future. Beating yourself up and replaying the events over and over in your mind in a negative way can be compared to a pot of water on the stove. Your thoughts go to the negative over and over, you berate yourself, criticize yourself, question your value and worth, until your pot of water boils over and you feel like there is no coming back from your failure.

Take the pot off the burner before it boils over, by choosing to focus on how you can be proud of yourself. Intentionally take some time and think about what you have achieved. Think about obstacles you have overcome in the past. Think about the success you have experienced. Think about the qualities you possess that make you proud to be you.

The answers to these questions will enable you to create an empowering perspective. You will fail forward, meaning even though you failed, you will learn from it, grow from it, and keep making progress forward.

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