Most of us know that failure is a reality of life, and at some level, we understand that it actually helps us grow. Intellectually, we even acknowledge that the greatest achievers — past and present — also routinely experienced colossal failures.
But still, we hate to fail. We fear it, we dread it, and when it does happen, we hold onto it. We give it power over our emotions, and sometimes we allow it to dictate our way forward (or backward). Some of us go to great lengths to avoid failure because of all the pain and shame associated with it.
1. Don’t make it personal. Separate the failure from your identity. Just because you haven’t found a successful way of doing something (yet) doesn’t mean you are a failure. These are completely separate thoughts, yet many of us blur the lines between them. Personalizing failure can wreak havoc on our self-esteem and confidence.
2. Take stock, learn and adapt. Look at the failure analytically — indeed, curiously — suspending feelings of anger, frustration, blame or regret. Why did you fail? What might have produced a better outcome? Was the failure completely beyond your control? After gathering the facts, step back and ask yourself, what did I learn from this? Think about how you will apply this newfound insight going forward.
3. Stop dwelling on it. Obsessing over your failure will not change the outcome. In fact, it will only intensify the outcome, trapping you in an emotional doom-loop that disables you from moving on. You cannot change the past, but you can shape your future. The faster you take a positive step forward, the quicker you can leave these debilitating, monopolizing thoughts behind.
4. Release the need for approval of others.Often our fear of failure is rooted in our fear of being judged and losing others’ respect and esteem. We easily get influenced (and spooked) by what people say about us. Remember, this is your life, not theirs. What one person considers to be true about you is not necessary the truth about you, and if you give too much power to others’ opinions, it could douse your passion and confidence, undermining your ability to ultimately succeed.
5. Try a new point of view. Our upbringing – as people and professionals – has given us an unhealthy attitude toward failure. One of the best things you can do is to shift your perspective and belief system away from the negative (“If I fail, it means I am stupid, weak, incapable, and am destined to fall short”) and embrace more positive associations (“If I fail, I am one step closer to succeeding; I am smarter and more savvy because the knowledge I’ve gained through this experience”).