At almost every stage in our careers, there will come a time when we take on a project that fails miserably. We beat ourselves up and hang on to the upsetting emotions far longer than necessary. We all know that failure is a necessary part of life, the way we learned at five that the oven was hot, or that it wasn’t good to drink the entire gallon of milk at one sitting. As we grow professionally, we learn our lessons in different ways, and one of the most important learning tools is through failure. Here are a few tips on how to view failure as a part of life, recover gracefully, and forge ahead.
Realize you are not alone. Ask anyone if they have ever made a professional mistake, and they will almost always share their experience. Those who are successful have a common thread…they continue to fail until they succeed. It often takes many attempts at something before it can be claimed an “overnight” success.
Redefine your definition of failure. Mentally view the failure as your “initial attempt,” your “good first (or 9th) try”. Focus on aspects of the experience that were successful, and more importantly, those that weren’t. Temporary setbacks are the very best learning tools and allow you to analyze what you will do differently moving forward.
Build up your resilience. Yes, failure can be rattling, but what matters most is your reaction. Listen to your self-talk and don’t get into a perpetual cycle of “I’m so stupid,” and “What an idiot,” or worse, “I knew this would happen”. Don’t allow yourself, or outside naysayers to tap your energy or dull your resolve to succeed the next go around. There are countless stories of great minds that failed multiple times before becoming a historical success story. Quitters don’t win.
Respect the lesson. It’s been said that with every endeavor there are only two possible outcomes: success or education. Look at a failed project or getting fired from a particular job as a valuable learning experience. Embrace the priceless lessons: A clear picture of what didn’t work, a better understanding of the amount of work it takes to accomplish a particular goal, deeper knowledge of time management, an eye-opening view of your profession’s demands, and the attitude it will take to be a significant contender. Most importantly, embrace the lesson. Stay focused and give it another try!
Accept responsibility. Instead of looking for an excuse, or for someone else to blame, own your mistake and take full responsibility for the outcome. Verbalize your feelings and ask for help or seek an alternate direction. It’s not the end of the world, simply an opportunity to take another course to a positive end result.
Dan Waldschmidt, Business Insider, wrote a great article that I think we all could benefit from reading, 19 Things You Need To Do To Be Successful.