My favorite quotes on failure is this: “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” — Ken Robinson
I fail at all of that stuff, and it feels just as horrible for me as it does for anyone else. I get down on myself, feel guilty, try to avoid thinking about it, would rather hide it from everyone else. Failing at things can really suck. And yet, I get back up and try again.
I fail at eating healthy on a regular basis, but I keep trying again. I’m pretty good these days at sticking to an exercise plan, but I failed and tried again, regularly, for years and years.
I fail at loving myself. But I don’t give up on that.
I fail at being a good daughter, sister, girlfriend, seemingly multiple times a day. But I continue to try, and sometimes I succeed. When I try over and over again, once in awhile I succeed. So what’s the secret? Well, there isn’t any. You just have to keep trying.
That said, here’s what I’ve found to work:
- I learned a more flexible mindset. When you are rigidly trying to stick to a plan or achieve a goal, and things don’t go according to plan, then you feel like crap and things can get derailed. But if you have a more flexible mindset, and think, “I might not be able to go according to plan but that’s OK because things change,” then it’s not a disaster when you get off track. There’s no single track that you have to stay on.
- I came to realize that every attempt is about learning. When you fail, that’s actually really good information. Before you failed, you thought that something would work (a prediction), but then real-world information came in that told you it didn’t work. That means you now know something you didn’t know before. That’s excellent. Now you can adjust your plan, figure something new out, try a new method. Keep learning.
- Ask for help. When I’m struggling with something, I know that I can either give up, or I can figure out a better way. But it’s not always easier to figure out a better way, so I reach out to my wife, friends, trusted family members, and I ask them. They might give me simple, obvious, why-didn’t-I-see-that advice that I need, or brilliant tips, or accountability. Whatever happens, my friends and loved ones never seem to fail me.
- I give myself a break. If I’m struggling, sometimes my mind or body just needs a break from the discipline. So I’ll take a day or two off, or a week, or even more. There’s no set time that’s right for every situation, so I’ve been learning to go by feel. For some things, I’ve taken a month or two off from trying to learn something.
- I remind myself why it’s important. It’s easy to give up on something, because not doing it is always easier. But giving up means you’re losing something important, like helping someone, and so if my reasons for doing something aren’t just selfish (pleasure, vanity), then I will renew my vigor for the struggle. This alone is often enough to get me going again, especially if I’m doing it to help someone important, like my kids.
Well unfortunately, for most people who try something and fail, that failure actually reinforces their feelings of regret. They think, I never should have done this. Why did I even try this? How stupid can I be? It reinforces their insecurities and fears. They return to a rut. They get negative. They might never try anything again.
I think the biggest obstacle to success for most people is they never do anything. They just exist and go through life and never take a chance or do anything different. They go from one day to the next and just exist in life because they’ve failed in the past and are afraid to try again, or because they’re too scared to take a chance in the first place.
The most successful people in the world are only successful after so many failures; you wonder how they ever kept going. If you really study their failures, you think, How could they survive that?
The best way to deal with failure is to focus on what’s next. Move forward, chart a new path and get excited about what’s next.
Two of the great emotions in life are excitement or enthusiasm. It’s easy to get down, where your attitude is that nothing’s working and life is terrible. Keep your excitement and enthusiasm about the future and about where you’re going.
How do you do that? Talk about that next thing. Write it out. Share it with people who can help you get excited. Post it on your mirror every day, if that’s your thing. But make sure you place your thoughts on the next goal, the next journey, and stop rehashing that last failure in your mind.
Beating yourself up for your lack of success or declaring yourself a hopeless cause leads to unhelpful feelings, like shame or resentment. And it can lead to unproductive behavior, like staying inside your comfort zone.
The key to recovering from failure is changing the way you think. When you think about failure differently, you’ll be able to turn your biggest setbacks into your best comebacks.
Always remember: you have more than one shot to create the life you want
You will screw up at some point in life, and that’s okay so long as you learn from them and figure out a different path towards the same goal.
The biggest screw up you can make is to just give up and accept that you can’t succeed because of you who you are or where you come from. If you are going through hell, don’t stop. And if you catch hell, don’t hold it.
So start again when you get it wrong. People who overestimate what they’re capable of are far more likely to actually, get off their ass and try. You will stumble, you may fail, but you are not your failure!
One thing is absolutely certain, if you REALLY want to succeed in life, if you want to do something special, something incredible, if you want to fulfill your dreams… failure is inevitable.
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