Life Lessons: Learning How to Deal with Failure

Source: The NLP Company

Failure – to some, this word incites anxiety and stress, while to others it conversely can invoke more positive connotations such as determination and strength. Where does this difference lie? Failure is a constant reality of life – nobody is perfect to say the least. What matters is how we deal with failure – will we be able to deal with the painful emotions and change it into something new, or will we dwell in them. Here, we are removing the fear of failure and its surrounding stigma, turning it into a positive experience of growth, making failure less daunting to face. Personally, my life motto is ‘Learn and grow’ – which acknowledges that in life, failure is bound to happen and the only thing we can is accept it and learn from it. Here are the six steps you can take in the process of dealing with failure, so as to not allow it to derail our goals and dreams.

Source: IQ Matrix Blog

Stay cool, calm and collected

The first important step is to embrace your emotions. Indeed, failure often hits us like a truck, accompanied by a rollercoaster of emotions – shame, disappointment, frustration, suffering, embarrassment. Though painful, acknowledging such emotions is needed to accept the failure and begin to process it. Think about what you are feeling, rather than dwelling on the failure itself. For instance, if you feel great disappointment and shame, perhaps your failure was defined based on the external validation you sought from others. This is a clue for you to understand your sources of motivation and base of your emotions. One way to pause and acknowledge your mental state is mindfulness – the practice of being fully aware and present in your thoughts and emotions. You can even go a step further and craft a journal entry or record your emotions in a mood tracker application.

The second step is replacement – out with the old and in with the new! Here, set aside the old negative emotions and acknowledge any positives you see or feel. The crux is, failure means growth. Though it is painful, change is the only constant! Replace any negative mindsets with are renewed determination to change and improve. In this way, failure can take a new meaning of growth, resilience and strength and will no longer derail your emotions when it does happen.

Take ownership for your failure

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The key here is to accept an appropriate level of responsibility for what has happened. Excessively blaming oneself or making excuses and casting the blame to others is counter productive and will hinder your understanding of the failure and in turn, become an obstacle to change. Think realistically – acknowledge any part you had to play, think about what went wrong and most importantly, why? Believe that you can handle this failure and learn from it – look for explanations not excuses! Identify the reasons for the mistake and learn what you specifically can do differently next time.

Take failing a test for example. Not performing to your expectations in test or examination can be a very difficult experience to grapple with, but it is a scenario you should analyse and figure out the reasons behind what happened. Was the low score in your test due to you possibly leaving your studying to the last minute or even not studying not properly at all? In case, identifying such possible reasons mean you will not make the same mistake twice and can find solutions to them. Here, a solution that really helped to solve these problems for me was admitting and accepting the fact that I needed extra help to boost my studying and stay on the ball for my examinations and countless school tests. This is why I decided to engage a variety of private home tuition in Singapore, and tried out 1-to-1 home tuition in Junior College. Here, finding a reliable home tuition agency in Singapore, such as FamilyTutor is very important as you would want to be able to depend on them for personalized private tuition and reliable and highly qualified home tutors. Incorporating such home tuition into your studying means that your private tutor can help identify reasons for why you may not be performing well in school, as well as ensure you are adequately prepared for your tests, plugging any gaps in your learning. Hence, for my this solution though expensive, was a good investment in my education and helped me in a sense escape my ‘study rut’ that I was trapped in.

Find reasons to keep going

Source: TWLOHA

Michael Jordan once said: “I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” What kept Jordan going? Perhaps it was the responsibility to finally get the game winning shot, and make his team and family proud. Perhaps it was the need to give his fans the thrilling game and win they longed for. Perhaps it was the innate desire in him to win – all these are reasons to keep trying over and over again until you get it right. Often when embroiled with failure, we find ourselves losing sight of why we even tried in the first place. We become consumed with thoughts that we will never succeed, or that we are a disappointment to those around us. Having this negative mindset clouds our vision and will only serve to make us repeat the failure. Instead, remind yourself of why you started! What were your dreams? What was your end goal? At the end of the day, we only have different reasons to keep going but the shared vision is we want to see ourselves succeed and prove to ourselves that we are capable of receiving what we dream of. Below are some affirmations you can repeat daily to remind yourself of what drives you and that even if you fall down, you are more than capable of picking yourself back up again.


Learn from your experience

Source: Twitter

As they say, failure is one of the greatest teachers in life. Failure is an intimate process, and only you can fully see the lessons it teaches and grow from it. Think about what you would do differently next time and why. Even if you fail again, this just means you have another opportunity to learn what works and what does not. Thomas Edison famously describes his failed experiments during his invention of the light bulb as: “I have found 10, 000 ways something won’t work. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” The only way forward is to try again repeatedly, until you reach your goal. A step further would be even to learn from the failures of others, so as to not repeat the mistakes they made. This is where finding a role model comes into play. Having a figure we look up to is an additional factor that can boost this learning experience. This could be a personal mentor or even a successful figure you admire.

Have a new plan of action

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Dona Shula is one of the most successful coaches in the NFL and among his players, implements a “24-hour rule” to teach them to strive forward instead of dwelling on past mistakes. For 24 hours, himself included, they are allowed to either celebrate their win or agonize over a defeat. Shula encourages the team to feel whatever emotions they are feeling as deeply as possible and brood over any failures. After the 24 hours, everything must be put behind them, and their focus should be on preparing for their next competition.

This 24 hour philosophy is an easy rule to adopt! Allow yourself to wallow over a failure for a day but immediately after, commence your new plan of action. Think about what you have learnt and gained in terms of experience from the failure, including alternative perspectives and methods you can try out. In this way, you adopt a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset, and are able to get out of the ‘funk’ many people find themselves in after a failure. ‘Unstick’ yourself from anything that may be holding you back such as residual emotions or a bruised ego. Create a new plan instead of ruminating on past mistakes or procrastinating, and put it into action! As Michael Jordan put it: ‘I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”



Maddy is an humanities undergraduate student and is passionate about learning and education, having been both a student and teacher herself. She hopes to impart practical advice and light hearted reflections around school life and studying, that can help you learn and grow in your education journey as well!

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