Dealing with Failure
Dr. Carol Dweck asks a really interesting question in her book - If you’re somebody when you’re successful, what are you when you’re unsuccessful?
The way we cope when we fail is often determined by our mindsets. How we deal with success and failure individually is really important to get right. Failure can be a very painful experience for anyone, no matter their mindset. Feeling disappointed when you haven’t managed to reach a goal is hard. Everyone will feel with this differently, but it's important to identify how to deal with it the right way for you.
Sometimes we have surrounded ourselves with others, whose opinions and expectations do not help us to deal with failure. We may not do this intentionally, but when this happens, it can really affect how well we cope. When I was younger, I was told by a teacher that I would always be a ‘middle of the road’ student who spent too much time with my horses. Her expectation of me was that I would do okay at school and never really do anything amazing with my life. Even at this young age, this expectation stayed with me and made me become more determined to prove her wrong. Although I managed to do this throughout my school life, there was a time where I managed to fail every single exam during my A-Levels. At the time, this really affected my confidence and made me think back to my old school teacher. I overcame this by thinking about how I could reach my goal without giving up, so I went back to college and then straight to university. No part of it was easy. But I took my time to see what I was doing wrong and change the situations to best suit me.
It's really important to remember that when we fail a goal, there’s no time limit on that goal. We can spend some time reevaluating it. Figure out what didn’t go so well and what you need to change to try it again more successfully. It doesn’t matter how many times you do this process. If you are continuously experiencing failure for the same goal, then maybe go through this process with someone else. They will be able to give you a new and outside perspective of the situation.
As well as this, you shouldn’t rely on comparing your failures with success. If we did this every time, we would start to transform the action of failing into our identity (I’m a failure). Although occasionally comparing ourselves to others to gain understanding and knowledge of how to improve ourselves can be helpful, it needs to be done in the right way. Think about what they did differently to you that made them succeed. For example, you are in a competition where you didn't achieve your goal of being placed first. This would be disappointing, but it would be easy to start comparing yourself to the winner. By looking at how they were more successful would only be helpful if you were prepared to use this knowledge to learn and improve yourself. If this doesn’t happen, we can start to make excuses or place blame instead. If you allow yourself to face the pain and have a more open mind, we can remember that every challenge is one to remind us of how far we have come.
Everyone feels failure and it's completely normal to feel disappointed and hurt, but the most important thing is to not allow it to affect your confidence or mindset. It's another experience that will shape you to become stronger and more prepared when you finally achieve your dream.