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12 Healthy and Effective Ways to Overcome Failure

Written by Marina Khonaisser

As much as we hate it, failure is an inevitable part of life. We all want to excel and be good at everything right off the bat, but the fact is that when we’re trying something new, there’s a good chance that we’re going to… well, fail.

I remember going into my second year of university feeling super confident only to emerge from some of my classes being uncertain and scared about my studies. A lot of what I was learning was new, and I’d never tackled anything as extensive as a twelve-page research paper. I’d feel a crippling sensation at the thought of doing anything that I didn’t believe I could do flawlessly. The idea that I could make a mistake (gasp) made me ill.

Not being able to deal with failure makes you sick in more ways than one. Knowing that, I’ve grown to embrace it—I’m here to tell you not only that fearing failure is normal and very much okay, but also how you can deal with those fears and come out of them as a stronger person.

1. Realize You’re Going to Learn More

Nobody can execute a task perfectly without a bit of trial and error. Take a step back and look at the situation that unfolded. If something went wrong, what happened? What could have been done differently? Chances are the next time you attempt a task after trying it once, you’ll have a better idea of how to kill it. Thomas Edison said it best: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

2. Just Keep Going!

Did you know that Walt Disney was fired from a job because they claimed he wasn’t creative enough? That the Harry Potter manuscript was rejected and turned down twelve different times before being published? Yeah. You can pick your jaw up from the floor now. What do Walt Disney and J.K Rowling have in common? They never gave up. Don’t let a small bump in the road deter your journey. So you didn’t save that goal at your soccer game—so what? There are still 40 minutes left in the other half.

3. You’re Not Alone

It’s easy to feel like you’re the only one who failed a midterm and then have an urge to beat yourself up about it. The truth is that you’re not the only one, and that’s a comfort in itself. No, you’re not defective; you’re human like everyone else. You’re not the only one struggling to do well in a class or on a sports team, and you (just like everyone else) can overcome those struggles.

4. Approval Not Needed

One important thing that you need to do is release yourself from caring about the opinions of others. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and that didn’t stop him from developing a phenomenal basketball career. Heck, I tried out for my junior high school badminton team every single year for three years in a row despite being cut each time. Why? I didn’t let myself become worried or preoccupied with what others thought of me or my efforts.

5. It’s Okay to Cry

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that it’s unhealthy to keep your emotions bottled up. What seriously helps me through a failure or feeling of defeat is a good old-fashioned cry or rant. Just let it all out! It’s normal to feel angry and annoyed when you don’t succeed,  and if you need to sit in your room alone for a while, do that. If you need to run around and scream at the top of your lungs, do that, too. Let it happen.

6. But Change Your Attitude Eventually

While it’s fine to be upset in the moment and let your darker emotions out for a little bit, you can’t be pessimistic forever. Failure isn’t the end, and you need to change the way you think about it. Consider it a stepping-stone towards your ultimate goal rather than a setback.

7. Don’t Dwell On It

This one is totally easier said than done, but it’s something you need to learn to do. I work the driving range at a golf course and I am responsible for handling large sums of money. On one of my first shifts during my cash out, I discovered that I had messed up with the debit machine, and the total on my computer did not match the total on the receipts.

While it was all taken care of eventually, I made myself sick over it. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, and I couldn’t think of anything but that one mistake I had made. Stop. Breathe. Relax. It’s not the end of the world. It happened, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Stop focusing on it and move on from it.

8. Ask Questions

If you’re not sure why you failed at something, there’s no harm in figuring out why. If you didn’t do well on an assignment, approach your professor about it. If you didn’t do your job as per the expected standards, ask your boss what went wrong. Sometimes a bit of clarification can make you feel a whole lot better.

9. Don’t Make it Personal

Your failures aren’t a reflection of who you really are. You might have gotten yelled at or gotten an ugly red mark slashed across your paper, but don’t let that get to the core of your identity. Colonel Sanders knocked on 1009 doors before someone agreed to try his fried chicken recipe (and yup, that became KFC!). Failing does not make you a failure. Don’t take it to heart.

10. Shift your Focus

Not giving up and pushing forward is great, but sometimes you’re going to find yourself in a bit of a rut. Instead of focusing on one sole goal, try broadening your mindset and take a look elsewhere. Maybe you’re trying to hammer out a manuscript for your editor and you just can’t get it right. Take a step back and try something else. Go for a walk, start another project, or even just take a moment to relax. Don’t become obsessed over it.

11. Surround Yourself with Support

Sometimes, having trusted people you can turn to can make the sting of failure hurt a bit less. Whether it’s friends, family, or colleagues, talk to people who are there for you when you need it. They’ll be able to lift you up when you might not be able to do it on your own.

12. Know That You Did It

One of the most important things my dad ever told me is that as long as I try my hardest, I can never truly fail at something; the only real failure is not trying at all. If you put 100% of your effort into something, that’s not failure. If you put every inkling of your will and energy into doing your task, you should be satisfied with yourself even if it doesn’t turn out perfectly. Keep your head up!

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.