Looking back when dealing with failure
It’s been a year since I started this site as a way of dealing with failure. Things are looking well and I couldn’t imagine a year ago what I would be doing now.
It all started with a post about my experiences of failing out of Pharmacy School. I had no idea what I was going to do. There was all this time and effort spent and it felt like for nothing.
The things I wanted to do but couldn’t because I was so focused on getting into the school. Everything evaporated before my eyes.
It’s one thing to fail out at an undergraduate level, you can take a year off and go back and schools will take you.
Failing out at the professional school level puts you almost on a “do not enroll list” for other graduate and professional schools. You have to prove to them that you changed and then you can take a few classes to see how your grades are, then you can be accepted.
Failure is a test of who you are. I had no idea what I wanted to do so I started this site to let people know they weren’t alone in their failure.
I put my thoughts out into the world and found kindness where I wasn’t looking, thank you for reading and reaching out, it means a lot.
Dealing with failure
When dealing with failure we learn hard lessons. Yet an important lesson is that we all make mistakes. Have a setback or simply fail. It can be devastating.
What I’ve learned about dealing with failure is that we can’t avoid failing unless you decide to avoid doing anything at all. Even that could be a failure, the failure of doing nothing. In this way, failure is a test that shows who you really are.
Doing nothing, especially after a big failure seems like an easy option, but doing nothing is never an option after failing.
So what’s needed is a smart and rational way to handle situations. Instead of letting failures lead to a constant and nasty self-beatings that end up dragging you down into an everyday negativity attitude that’ll be hard to dig yourself out of.
When you’ve experienced a significant failure it’s going to hurt. It’s going to be bad. Somedays more than others.
When dealing with failure, pretending things are OK won’t help, you have to believe things are OK. Otherwise, you hold everything in and let failure define your actions. That’s an easy self-impulsive trap that can lead you to a false sense of peace.
What I did was to not be in my head too much but also balance what I was thinking and feeling. This was helpful in accepting what happened all the while my mind was trying to reject it all and to keep it away.
Because when you let it in and accept it then it will go faster and in the long run be less painful to process what has happened.
If you reject how you really feel then those emotions will pop up at unexpected times later on and can make you moody, pessimistic, angry or sad. Instead, try to channel those feelings into something productive.
I started this site and writing about a failure to dig myself out, try different things to see what works for you. So far, writing to you is a great experience.
What failure means
I wasn’t sure what failure means in the context of a life. I had to learn that failure doesn’t define you but failure is a test of what you’re made of, what drives you to keep going or to give up.
When you’ve had a setback it’s very easy to start thinking that you will always keep failing in this area of your life.
When dealing with failure, it’s easy to start thinking that YOU are indeed a failure. It’s important to not fall for a destructive and possible self-fulfilling prophecy of disappointment.
Remind yourself: Just because you failed today or yesterday doesn’t mean that you’ll fail the next time.
The truth is that this won’t last for the rest of your life if you keep moving forward if you take action and you keep learning and it doesn’t label you as some kind of failure (except if you decide to create that label in your own head).
Seeing what’s negative as a temporary thing instead of something permanent is an essential key to an optimistic attitude and to keep going forward in life.
Learn from failure
I’ve found that the simplest and most helpful way to do that is to ask myself better questions (instead of the common ones that send you off into a negative spiral).
- What’s one thing I can learn from this?
- How can I adjust my course to avoid this trap/making the same mistake and likely do better next time?
- What’s one thing I can differently the next time?
Take some time with these questions and be honest with yourself as you answer them. There’s no rush and while some of the answers may be immediate others might take an hour, day or even a week to pop up.
The important thing is to start thinking about the situation from this perspective and to be constructive about things instead of getting stuck in denial or negativity and apathy.
Take chances on your vision means potential failure
We often mostly just hear about people’s successes. But the path to those milestones tends to have many setbacks. The story of someone’s success may seem only bright and fast-moving in what’s told in the media or we see in our minds.
There are a couple of instances that come to mind when I think about failure, NASA, and Herman Melville. When NASA was trying to get us to the moon there were years of failed attempts but what each failure was a lesson. Each failure was a step closer to getting us to the moon.
NASA spent years trying to figure out how to design, propel, and retrieve rockets and our astronauts. Once they figured how to get the rockets safely into space, they had to figure out how to get them back.
Once the figured that out, they had to figure out how to get to the moon and back.
Even after horrible fatalities and mission disasters, they kept going. All these steps had many failures but each failure was a lesson learned for the next launch.
Heman Melville authored Moby Dick but before that, he authored other books that were considered successful. When Moby Dick was considered a failure.
There were sections missing that brought the story together. The story was considered a flop before history could consider it one of the classics of American literature.
The points these two examples show us is that we taking chances can mean failure in the short term but with persistence and planning success can be found.
Don’t keep it all in
Another way of dealing with failure is to not keep it all bottled up inside. Let it out into the light by talking it over with someone close to you or to the world like I did.
Venting about it while the other person just listens you can sort things out for yourself, help yourself to accept what happened instead of pushing it away and release that inner pressure.
By having a conversation about the situation you can see it from another perspective and through someone else’s eyes. This person can help you to ground yourself in reality again, to encourage and to perhaps even to find a way forward.
Find inspiration and support from your world. A conversation with someone close to you can be very helpful or someone going through the same or similar situation. You’ll find that you’re not alone.
Another thing you can do is to learn from those who’ve gone where you want to go. Read about how they handled setbacks and low-points before or during their success in books, on websites (like mine) or online forums.
You can get valuable insight into the motivations and experience of others. This may not be specifically about your current challenge but can help you to shift your mood and mindset to a more optimistic attitude.
Failure is a test of who you really are
In dealing with failure, processing the situation and accepting it is essential.
But we know from experience that it’s also easy to get stuck in the same thoughts going around and around for a week or a month.
The habit that has helped me with this trap is to take what I learn from questions like the ones I mentioned in point 3 above and to make a small rough plan for how I want to move forward from here.
So take some time to sit down and write that one out.
Take action on that plan right away after you’ve drawn it up.
The plan you come up with will just be a start. You can course-correct later on, along the way.
So you don’t have to make it perfect. Trying to do that can sometimes just be a way to procrastinate because you fear to fail again or because it is hard to start moving after this rough and disorienting thing that happened to you.
Split your start of a plan up into small steps and then take action on just one of them.
If you still have a hard time to get going then go for a very small step, any small movement forward is important. The important thing is to get started and moving forward again to make that easy on yourself.
Work on building self-esteem
The last thing that has helped me overcome the feeling of failure in general to handle setbacks is to improve self-esteem.
By doing so failures don’t become something that so easily drags me down and I recover more quickly from them.
It also makes it easier to see what happened with more clarity. It helps us take responsibility but also helps us to see when someone else is partly responsible.
Or, when I just had bad luck that I could honestly not have predicted. It helps me to not think that everything that goes wrong in our lives is 100% our fault.
How do we improve our self-esteem? A good start would be to use much of what you find in this article.
It’s important to remember that YOU are not a failure.
When dealing with failure you have to face that reality head-on. Then look at what’s left over and see what you can make of it. Try new things and explore different options. Find little successes where you can.
By doing these things over and over and making them habits your self-esteem improves.
Over time a smaller setback may just bounce off of you. Then a larger one will not be the same hit as it used to.
The realization of the failure and the and climb out from what happened becomes somewhat easier and not something that keeps holding you back.
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