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8 Steps To Overcome Failure (With Resilience-Building Tips)

The process of working toward goals often involves failures and setbacks, but you can use these events to your advantage. Creating a personal strategy to respond to failure can help you move on more quickly and reach your goals faster. These coping strategies are relevant throughout your career, from the job application process to taking on greater challenges as you advance. In this article, we discuss the steps you can take to overcome personal or professional failures and build a positive outcome or new skills.

Why is a strategy important to overcome failure?

When you experience failure in your professional or personal life, you might experience feelings that make it challenging to think about your experience objectively or learn from it. Having a strategy or certain steps to take can help you put the event in context, remember your personal value and accept the next challenges without fear. As you develop resiliency to failure, it may be easier for you to try new techniques and learn new things, which can broaden your skills and bring you more variety and enjoyment.

How to overcome failure for a positive outcome

It’s important to develop skills for overcoming challenges and setbacks so that you can continue to find satisfaction and make progress in your personal and professional lives. Here are some steps to help you work through failure:

1. Accept feelings

The first step in overcoming failure is acknowledging how you feel. You may feel sad, disappointed, angry or hurt after a professional or personal failure. Recognizing these feelings and connecting them to the failure itself can help you move forward. Allowing yourself to feel this way for a short amount of time can help you release these feelings and move on.

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2. Take a break

To be able to look at the event more objectively, you can give yourself a mental break by doing a different activity. If you’re in the office, this might mean taking a short five-minute walk outside or using your lunch break for an activity you enjoy. If your work schedule is busy, you might work on a different task for a few hours or days. This way, you can be calm and reasonable when you return to your challenge. Concentrating on something else can help you avoid overthinking the situation.

3. Put the event into perspective

It’s important to remember that failure does not represent you as a person. Think about the event’s real consequences to understand the size of its impact, and consider all the aspects of your life that aren’t affected by this event. You might also make a list of your professional accomplishments or personal strengths to remember your unique value and advantages. If you’re struggling to think objectively, imagine what you’d say or do if a friend or coworker had been in this situation, and then apply that kindness and advice to yourself.

4. Find things to learn

Work to understand why the problem happened and what brought the negative result. This can help you avoid that result in the future. You might ask yourself questions like these:

  • What was the series of choices I made that allowed this event to happen?
  • Which choice might I make differently next time to change the outcome?
  • Which parts of those events can I influence or change?
  • What did I learn about those around me and how they respond to challenges?
  • Are there any good techniques that others used in this situation that I can apply next time?

If the answers are unclear to you, consider asking a leader or supervisor for their perspective and advice.

5. Take responsibility and accountability

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After you’ve thought about what exactly happened, take responsibility for your role in the event. This might mean describing your role to a coworker who is responsible for resolving it, apologizing for your mistakes or reporting any events necessary through company policy. Then, take accountability for your actions by understanding whether you’ve caused harm to others and working to repair it.

6. Discuss the event

Talking about the event with someone you trust can be encouraging. They may suggest new opportunities or new perspectives on the failure that make it easier to use constructively. If you’re able to talk to a professional in your field outside of your workplace, like a mentor or professor, they may be able to give you advice about how to move forward in your specific field after this.

7. Learn about solutions and behavior models

Research can be a powerful tool since you learn from the experiences of others. If you’re facing a professional setback, you may choose to learn about leaders in your field by reading interviews or memoirs. Understanding how others failed and recovered can show you how you might be able to recover as well and help you normalize setbacks in your career.

8. Create a plan

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Based on what you’ve learned, establish a plan for how you can move forward. This might include trying some new techniques you learned from your research or your conversations with others, applying for a new opportunity or taking a class or reading a book to strengthen specific skills. In your plan, try to include measurable elements and steps for accountability so that you can see what progress you’re making. To stay on track, you might create a schedule and check it regularly or meet with a mentor or friend to discuss progress.

Tips for building resilience

Some personal habits and tools can make it easier to respond to failures and challenges. Here are some tips for building your own resilience:

  • Challenge yourself regularly. By looking for opportunities to try new hobbies and tasks in your personal and professional fields, you can get used to learning by doing, find new things that bring you joy and strengthen your ability to respond to failure by understanding how it works in the learning process.

  • Develop healthy habits. Habits that keep your mind and physical body healthy can give you the energy and emotional range to respond better in challenging situations.

  • Consider risks and benefits. When deciding whether to take on an advanced job or complicated task, think about the possible risks of failure and benefits of success. When you’ve considered these things in advance, you can prepare for all possible outcomes.

  • Practice realistic optimism. Focus on positive short- and long-term outcomes for all your projects. This can help you remain motivated to reach those outcomes and help you think of other good possibilities if you miss one opportunity.

  • Identify thought patterns. Try to recognize the patterns in your thought processes so that you can recognize early signs of negativity. Redirecting your own thought patterns can also help strengthen your optimism and put your actions into perspective.

  • Change your method rather than your goals. Instead of giving up on something after a failure, consider other methods for achieving your goals. This might mean seeking job experience instead of academic education, applying for a different job, making more plans or trying again in a different setting.

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