Everyone defines failure differently, and most people will say they learn more from their failures than their successes.
It takes courage to examine the situation, uncover the lessons, and learn to deal with failure productively, but life’s crucial lessons are hidden in failure. This is where the growth happens and where hope blooms.
After all, if you learn and grow from your failures, they were never truly failures to begin with.
Six failure-preventing steps the most successful people do when everything goes wrong
1. They use failure as a teacher.
Failure is the perception that you didn’t do something right and that the loss is your fault. How you perceive an experience determines whether you see it as a failure or a challenging situation that needs review and attention. An experience you define as a failure may be a situation aligned against you.
Or it may be that you didn’t evaluate the situation realistically, and failure was inevitable. The only way to determine the part you played is to follow these steps and determine what you could have done differently. Therein lies the lesson. The only thing you can control is yourself.
2. They take time to process their emotions and disappointment.
Failure brings with it a complex set of emotions and self-blame. In addition, you may be angry at the situation or person that you perceive let you down or caused the failure. It is OK to be mad, sad, frustrated, confused, and disappointed.
Take time to journal or reflect and process the emotions. You can cry, scream into a pillow, or stomp your feet. Be sure to use this time to process your emotions and not strike out at those you perceive have let you down or caused you to fail.
The first step is recognizing the emotions and then making a clear and thoughtful decision about any actions that you take regarding the situation. For example, if you were fired, it is best not to burn any bridges by striking out or saying things that will make a difficult situation worse. Some ways to process your emotions are to write letters you never send or journal about the emotions and place them in the context of the situation.
3. They focus on the facts.
The facts of the experience are the events without any emotional content. After you have processed your emotions (this may take several days or even months), breathe deeply and view the facts of the experience. Write down what happened without any bias.
Recognize the impact of your actions without blame or anger to help inform future situations. The old saying, “Wherever you go, there you are,” is true. People learn behaviors, beliefs, and strategies for handling failure from childhood experiences. Developing resilience requires you to understand how you react to failures.
It also requires you to take a realistic evaluation of your part in the failure. What could you have done differently to generate a different outcome? If you determine there was nothing you could have done differently, you may simply be a victim of happenstance.
However, most failures include a turning point where a different choice on your part may have created a different outcome. The only way to tell is to look objectively at your experience and learn from it.
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4. They incorporate what they learn into future plans.
Each time you process your experiences, you will learn you could have generated a different outcome with a different choice. Each day is made up of a series of choices. Those choices span from what you eat for breakfast to how you behave in relationships.
Little choices can have big consequences. Did you choose to react angrily or to ignore warning signs that pointed to failure? Self-awareness and the capacity to behave based on that awareness is the cornerstone of resilience.
When you understand the facts of a failure and incorporate the lessons into your sense of self, you can make a different choice the next time. Some people go from failure to failure without any self-awareness and never understand why their outcomes are always the same. Resiliency is the capacity to gain knowledge and self-awareness and then incorporate those lessons into our lives.
5. They get back up again.
When you fail, it feels like you have fallen in life. Getting back up means permitting yourself to restart your life using the lessons learned from the experience. It may mean looking for another job, finding another relationship, or getting back in the world with friends and family.
Some people need to remove themselves from the world to process lessons one through four. Eventually, you need to shake off your disappointment and continue to experience life. Severe trauma can have a long-lasting impact.
If your failure is from a traumatic experience, then you may need to see a counselor to process numbers one through four. You might need to “fake it to make it” to continue with life while processing the failure.
Only you can determine what you need. The decision to see a coach or counselor doesn’t signal another failure. It means you dare to face the situation and work through it to a successful outcome.
6. They never give up.
Persistence is the best predictor of success. Grit is one of the biggest predictors of success. Tanner Christensen identified four components for developing grit:
- Practice. Learn as you go and get feedback from step three. Feedback from peers and supervisors will help you develop grit or resilience.
- Purpose. Find something you can be devoted to and use that as a motivating force. Find something that you can dig into to gain a greater understanding.
- Hope. Find a way to develop hope out of the examination process. Failure is not a permanent state of affairs. If you feel you fail all the time and can’t find hope, get help from a coach or counselor.
- Time. Success takes time, and you need to give yourself the time to process the experience and develop a plan for your success.
Resilience is the capacity to experience loss, failure, and disappointment and incorporate the experience as a lesson worthy of your attention.
When you tap into your well of resilience, you can see the failure as a part of your journey, not the end of the game. Each time you incorporate these five lessons, you will build a well of resilience that you can tap into whenever you feel that you failed.
Failure is inevitable. Everyone experiences loss, disappointment, and failure. Resiliency allows you to bounce back from failure and build for a successful future. Your choices and actions determine your success. If you cannot figure out why you keep failing, find a professional who can give you an objective perspective. Remember that failure is not permanent but is an experience that you can weave into the tapestry of your life.
Pat Magerkurth is a life and business coach who has extensively studied women in the workplace. She focuses on communications expertise and coaches individuals and teams toward successful outcomes.