Failure is defined as non-performance – when you don’t achieve an outcome that you would like. This could include things such as not achieving your desired outcome on a plan, performance, financial goal, etc. It is important to learn, however, not to internalize situations that happen as a reflection of who you are as a person and your overall capabilities.

Some people think just because they experience a failure, that means that ‘they’ are a failure. This is not the case. It is much healthier to mentally think of failure as an attempt that didn’t work out as you hoped it would, versus thinking of it as something ‘wrong’ with you. Many people avoid taking risks due to the possibility that they would feel an uncomfortable emotion such as failure, or because they might face blame or criticism. There are reasons why experiencing failure can be difficult. We all want others to think highly of us, to meet expectations, and to build toward a better future.

Failure can offer so much learning and great life lessons. In order to learn from failure though, you have to learn how to face and accept it. In her book The Gift of Failure, Jessica Lahey shares that “setbacks, mistakes, miscalculations, and failures … are the very experiences that teach (us) how to be resourceful, persistent, innovative, and resilient citizens of the world.”

Everyone experiences situations in life that don’t turn out as expected. Walt Disney was turned down 302 times before securing financing for Disneyland. Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime, and his most expensive painting today is valued at over $140 million. Thomas Edison failed over 10,000 times. “Colonel” Sanders didn’t make it big with KFC until he was 68 years old.

When facing failure:

  • Don’t give up
  • Don’t avoid trying another time
  • Don’t blame
  • Don’t avoid thinking about what could have been differently

Instead, view failure as a step forward. As an attempt to get it right. As an opportunity to learn. As a chance to grow. As a move toward your success. Viewing it in a healthy way will help develop a positive mindset so that you can stay persistent and keep moving forward despite any setback that you might face.

Your character is defined by your response to adversity. Since failure is a fact of life, there are ways to deal with it so you’ll be able to overcome the setback. It’s a process that can take some time, but responding healthily to lost opportunities is the only way to get back on track. Whether it’s spending time with your family, hanging with good friends, reading a favorite book or visiting somewhere enjoyable…let yourself recharge with familiar comforts. Then, get back out of your comfort zone. Discomfort can be an uncomfortable emotion, but it is often felt as we are working to accomplish our dreams. Experience failure, learn from it, but don’t let failure hold you back.

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