Embracing and learning from failure
Setbacks, while inevitable, present opportunities for growth.
Despite our best efforts and carefully laid plans, a loss, rejection, or unexpected turn of events can lead to disappointment. Indeed, no one is immune to failure. We’ve all encountered setbacks since we were children. Think about the first time you fell off your bicycle. You bled, cried, and perhaps felt a little fearful to mount the bike again for another ride.
As adults, there are times where it seems almost impossible to hit your KPIs at work. The economy takes a dive, trends shift, or perhaps budgets take a sudden hit. These external events and forces lie beyond your control, and yet, when it comes to your annual performance evaluation, you can’t help but feel like you’ve failed to clear the mark.
However, learning to confront life’s hurdles with equanimity and resilience can make the difference between being stuck in the doldrums or moving past these setbacks. Below, we consider some ways to prop you back up on your feet.
Recognise the impermanence of the situation
Yes, perhaps your worst fears have come through. But think about all the times you’ve encountered challenges – did the situation last forever? Indeed, it did not. Such is the nature of life, where everything is impermanent. We move through the cycles of euphoria, sadness, disappointment, and happiness. Clinging on to each stage and hoping for it to last will lead to disappointment. Similarly, wallowing in each stage puts your mind through unnecessary stress because the season will change and this sense of frustration and disappointment will also pass. So sit with the situation. Observe the feelings that arise – be it fear, anxiety, frustration, or embarrassment. Watch them like passing clouds. But don’t cling to them.
Be kind to yourself
When we hit a roadblock, we are often quick to judge ourselves. “Perhaps I should have taken the other option. Perhaps I should have anticipated this. Perhaps I’m not capable enough to tackle this task.” We blame ourselves for the situation but forget that hindsight is 20/20.
To be self-critical is to set up a fertile ground for emotional distress. Research has shown that self-criticism contributes to depression, anxiety, and even eating disorders.
However, when we regard ourself with compassion and care, we allow ourselves to stop dwelling on the past and focus instead on learning valuable lessons that have arisen. A doctor doesn’t scold a patient for presenting with illnesses. Instead, he focuses on finding the root of the ailments and prescribing ways to heal. Be your own doctor and not your worst critic. Make room for healing.
Don’t bottle up your feelings
While you might be tempted to hide in your room, eat tubs of ice cream, and binge-watch Netflix to forget it all, remember that the age-old advice to “talk it out” is wisdom that has lasted through the ages.
The process of venting to a trusted friend, licensed therapist, or sharing about your struggles with a network that’s going through the same experience allows you to examine and express your emotions instead of repressing them. Interestingly enough, research from U.C.L.A has shown that verbalising your feelings diminishes the stress felt by the part of your brain that deals with intense feelings. Over time, your brain becomes less stressed over a situation that might have bothered you with greater intensity in the past.
A trusted companion might also assess the problem and provide you with a fresh and different perspective, enabling you to take more constructive steps towards resolving a difficult situation.
Taking your next step
Once you’ve given yourself time to process your thoughts and feelings, recognise that it is time to move forward. Being able to initiate this momentum is key even if you feel like your best-laid plans have been derailed. Charting a new course begins with a single step in the right direction. So take it one step at a time and keep moving. When you finally look back, you might realise that you’ve left these setbacks so far back in the past and you can thank them for the valuable lessons they’ve taught you.