One of my favourite teachers from school had a poster on his wall that read “fail – first attempt in learning.”
He viewed failures as nothing more than a bump in the road, a stepping stone towards later success.
But even if failures are only first attempts in learning, it doesn’t make them any easier to deal with. It is incredibly difficult to face failures, especially if we fail at something we really care about, or something we think we’re good at.
But unfortunately, no life is free of failure. We all are only human, and it’s completely natural and inevitable to fail at things from time to time. Being afraid of failing and viewing mistakes in a negative light will only do more harm than good. Luckily, it is what you do to pick up the pieces and put things back together again that counts.
It is our failures and mistakes that help us to learn and grow, then adapt and change our tack so that we can do better next time. Everybody has to start somewhere, and failing is nothing to be ashamed of.
It is helpful to avoid viewing failure in “black and white” or “all-or-nothing” terms. Although we may feel that we have failed, and that things have played out horrendously, it is likely that not everything has gone badly, and there may be a lesson to be learned amidst it all.
When things aren’t going so smoothly for me, I find it’s helpful to remember that everybody who has succeeded has also failed. Even the most successful people have failed at things, and several famous people were first high school drop outs. Life is full of second chances and new opportunities, and none of us can succeed at everything, all of the time.
Although it’s difficult, it’s important for us to try and change the way we think about failure. Instead of seeing it as a setback, we should try and use failure and criticism constructively to push us further.
I have heard about a stress management strategy called compensation, which involves building up other areas of your life, to compensate for the areas you feel you’re failing in. So if you feel that you’re failing at work, for example, working on other areas of your life such as your hobbies and your social life could be a good step to take. This then allows you to think “so work might be going badly, but at least I have my guitar playing, which is going well, and my social life is good. I’m really enjoying spending time with my family at the moment, and I have a good circle of friends around me.” This can be a useful tool, to help lighten the shadow that failure casts, and to help you to feel as though you’re succeeding in other areas of your life that you care about.
Generally, it’s good to make sure that you also consider the things you’re good at, alongside the things you feel you could improve on. Reflecting on failures and using them to improve is so much better than constantly going over them in your head and berating yourself for them.