Everyone has tried something and failed at it. There’s nothing wrong with failing, but some people let their failures get the best of them. Failure is painful, disappointing, and disheartening. However, in addition to these obvious emotional bruises, failure can impact us on an unconscious level and leave wounds that are far more psychologically devastating.
Recognizing the various mental injuries sustained when we fail and learning how to treat them will help you recover more rapidly and more fully, both psychologically and emotionally, and increase your chances of success in the future. Anyone can stew in their failures, but the key is getting back up and trying again. Here are some ways that you pick yourself and recover from failure.
Replace the word “failure” with “experience.”
Stop for a second and think about it: what is a failure if not an experience? Isn’t it something that you do that doesn’t go as planned, doesn’t bring the results you hoped for, or doesn’t go through? We can easily describe failure the same way we’d do an experience: a set of actions, their consequences, the emotions we feel in the process, the interactions with other people, the circumstances we can or cannot anticipate, and our reaction to those. Language carries profound meanings and affects the ways we understand things.
The term “failure” brings with it a burden of negative emotions, including shame, guilt, and regret. It hinders our progress as we get stuck in mental loops and reflect on the fact that it shouldn’t have happened, that we’re not good enough, that we did something wrong, and we should have done and known better.
“Experience,” on the other hand, brings about the idea of learning. We can more easily look back to and learn from it. To grow and get better, humanly and professionally, we need experiences. And, usually, bad or disappointing experiences, what we often define as failures, are the ones that teach us something valuable for our lives. In other words, if we don’t fail, we can’t learn. We need trials before figuring out the right way. The earlier we fail, the sooner we’ll find the path towards our success.
Tame your ego and practice humility.
Buddhism defines the ego as an “illusion of the self.” In psychology, the ego is the rational mind. It’s responsible for controlling our instinctual impulses and dealing with the external world rationally. Although they sound very different, those definitions are linked. A great deal of responsibility is assigned to our ego. It’s what controls the way we think and act. It’s our rational self and, in a society ruled by reason, it tends to get bigger and bigger as we grow up.
The ego thinks that we can control the events and their outcome. It believes that we are directly responsible for everything that happens to us. It’s what triggers negative emotions like blame and guilt. Going back to Buddhism: this degree of control is a flat-out illusion, and it’s the cause of a lot of psychological and emotional pain. People with big egos tend to panic and get excessively hurt when things don’t go as planned.
The ego is the side of the self that’s opposed to acceptance and resistant to change. The ego is our comfort zone, and experiencing failure gets us right out of it. When out of our comfort zone, we go through a mind-opening, learning, and humbling process. How do you tame your ego? By practicing humility, which can take time and dedication. Being humble allows us to give the right weight to failures in our lives. And that’s because we realize that everybody fails. Everybody makes mistakes. It’s not all about us.
Practicing acceptance can be challenging, especially if you have a big ego. An ego hurt by failure is delusional. It can’t accept the reality of things if the truth doesn’t match its expectations. However, humility leads to acceptance. We can’t change the past, but we can understand it and learn from it. We come to terms with our present situation, no matter how difficult it is, and we realize that our best option is to learn from our failures and move on.
Acceptance means acknowledging our failing nature as humans. It allows us to learn how to act out of our comfort zone. An accepting attitude recognizes the benefits of a blow in that it prepares us to take other hits, fight back and, ultimately, win. Acceptance is the awareness that there will be other opportunities and enables us to see the unexpected ones that come our way. When we accept failure as an experience among others, instead of complaining or despairing over it, we make room for the changes we need to become and do better.
Failure typically involves two opposite reactions: getting stuck blaming yourself for letting it happen or learning the lesson and moving on a firmer basis. The first option can lead to misery, whereas the second option entails positive change. The ego refuses to change because it can’t control it. Instead, an accepting and humble mind embraces change and its degree of uncertainty and hardship, but also as something new and exciting.
So what’s the best way to embrace change? Firstly, by accepting that everything, including ourselves, constantly changes, minute by minute, second after second, regardless of what we do. Secondly, by learning to let go. Recovering from failure is about letting go of the past, not staying anchored to it.
Letting go doesn’t mean disregarding or dismissing. It realizes that you can’t fix the unfixable. A more innovative thing to do is to take with you what you’ve learned from your mistakes, understand the valuable lessons, and use your newly acquired skills and knowledge as your weapons to succeed next time. Only by embracing the changes that the experience of failure brings into our lives can we turn it into a positive experience that provides us with the necessary tools to build our success.
Turn negatives into positives.
It can be tough to perceive something terrible that happened to us, which caused loads of problems and made us suffer as a good thing. However, gratitude is the way to fix this problem. There’s a phrase that goes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” As cliché as this sounds, it’s true.
Without failures and painful experiences in general, we couldn’t grow, become stronger, wiser, and overall better as people in our social and professional lives. Think of Boxing as a metaphor for life: you need to get hit before fighting back. You need to fall before learning to get back up. You must be cornered before finding the strength to break through and strike back. One of the hardest lessons throughout the failure recovery process is being grateful for everything you’ve experienced.
By practicing gratitude, you can see the positive teachings and the new knowledge that came from your failure. So be grateful for failures, mistakes, and even for your enemies: these are the teachers from which you’ll learn the essential lessons towards being the person you strive to be and building the life you truly want.
Failing something could be a blessing in disguise. It’s important to underline that all five strategies listed above are a work in progress, a process of growth and learning. They all require constant practice because knowing something doesn’t necessarily mean feeling it. There will be days when your old patterns get the best of you. On the other hand, there will be days when you can apply these strategies and win over the negative emotions. The more you practice those strategies, the more natural they’ll become. Failure is the key to success, but it’s all about your perspective.