How to Overcome Failure

Confucius once said that our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail. If you have fallen off the horse and could use a little guidance on how best to get back up, your search is over.

1. Accountability & Self-Sabotage

I don’t know how to put this lightly so here it goes: Own your ish! When you postponed studying until the night before your exam (hello self-sabotage) and failed it miserably, OWN it. Making excuses or pointing fingers is counterproductive and honestly a waste of your time. So the first step is literally saying out loud:

“I failed my exam. I made a mistake but I will learn from it and do better next time.”

2. The Postmortem Analysis 

Our initial reaction to failure is a weird blend of shame, guilt and disappointment, with a sprinkle of anger to top it all off nicely. It is no surprise then than most of us ignore and avoid talking about our failures. However to successfully bounce back from you shortcomings you have to do a postmortem. In other words, an after-death analysis of what really went wrong.

TIP #1: To make this easier for one’s ego, try taking a 3rd party’s perspective on the matter. Imagine you are a teacher giving advice to a student. What would you recommend? Remember, we are all permanent students and life is our greatest teacher.

TIP #2: Write it down, problems are less intimidating when you see them all laid out in front of you. You don’t have to be fancy, a few phrases or bullet points on the following should be more than enough: what went wrong, what you can do differently next time or how you plan on ACTING to resolve the issues, and what you learned from your failure.

3. Fixed vs Growth Mindset

As per the psychologist Carole Dweck, people vary between two types of mindsets which help us attribute the cause of our intelligence and other traits to certain things.

People with a fixed mindset believe that their qualities/capabilities are set in stone – so you are either smart or you’re not. A person with such a belief tends to seek external validation to prove themselves. As a result, critique and failure are extremely hard blows to the ego as they are perceived as personal attacks to the core self.

Individuals having a growth mindset see training and practice as ways to develop ones qualities, they know that they can get improve if they put in the work. Challenges are then perceived as ways to obtain valuable feedback on their performance. Failure becomes a means of sharpening their skills.

If you would like to adopt a growth mindset, or work on tweaking it, a good place to start is…

4. Acceptance of Failure in Your Life

Failure, rejection, mistakes and criticism are inevitable, so don’t go through life trying to avoid them. Personally, I feel like one of the biggest tragedies in life is seeing someone wasting their talent out of fear of failure. Don’t turn down opportunities just because you might stumble along the way.

“If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.”

(Richard Brandson)

I would like to end this post with a small reflection on fake self-love. This message that you are the best and forget the rest, they are just jealous. You are perfect – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Sorry to break it to you kid, but you’re not. I’m not. Nobody is perfect, there is always room for improvement – there is always room to grow. Trying to get people to internalize this inherent perfectionism ends up making them fear failure even more. You are not the best, and you need to allow failure and negativity to exist because they are both great teachers.

The most fascinating, self-actualized and successful people I look up to have gone through hell and back; and that’s inspiring. Because we are all diamonds in the rough – but with care and a bit of polishing we can even surprise ourselves!