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How to Handle Failure

Preye Raymond is a leading content writer who enjoys a blend of pragmatism in his self-help topics.


I don’t think we fully understand the meaning of the phrase ‘life is hard’ even when we say it often. Because if we do, then we would learn to handle failure better when it occurs.

However, social conditioning has also played a major role in the way we view both failure and success. And if you've read my previous articles, you’d notice that I talk a lot about the implications of social conditioning in some of the decisions and actions we take. You can see more on that here.

Naturally, society judges failure harshly, and this has been the case since, pretty much the Bronze Age. The rationale of learning from failure is highly controversial. Even though successful organizations and individuals fail often like the average Joe.

In our teenage years, we were all taught about the shameful and ‘hellish’ side of failing by our teachers and our parents (who were already conditioned by society to dish out such knowledge).

Occasionally, we received punishment for making mistakes, and a series of life advice that dwelt more on the consequences of our mistakes, rather than how to handle them or learn from them. If you were stubborn and rebellious and got punished for such behavior, that's a different story. I’m talking about the times you tried to make things work, but it kept on crashing sideways.

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Oftentimes, we got scolded with utterances like - “look at what you did”, “why would you do something so foolish?”go to your room and reflect on what you did”. Rather than, “This is what you should do next time, to avoid such mistake”. Hence, we grew into adulthood with the feeling of disgust, depression, and shame anytime we make mistakes, or we see someone else in such a situation.

Indeed, the issue of failure can be quite sensitive, and we dread it even more than we dread death. But a more healthy approach is to become comfortable with its inevitability and handle it in such a way that it sets us forward rather than backward. Your first move should be;

1) Avoiding the Domino Effect of Failure

Sometimes, people have a penchant for making their failures appear even worse than they should. In an attempt to get over their grievances or shame, they quickly resolve to quick fixes, hacks, and shortcuts to correct their errors. But in the end, it leads to a chain reaction of blunders.

Even if quick fixes and hacks seem to glue everything together, they are usually unreliable. And eventually, they wear off, even before a permanent solution is procured.

The better option is to let the mistake or error remain as it is, till a well-verified plan or solution is realized. You should also know that;

2) Covering it up Only Makes it Worse.

One thing is constant, and that is - time always unveils reality. No matter how long you try to be secretive about certain things, it leaks out as time unfolds. With that understanding in mind, it would be utterly useless to cover up a severe mistake.

The conventional motivation speech teaches us to “forget our past mistakes, or failures, because they don't define who we are”, which insinuates that anytime we fail we should cover it up and pretend it didn't happen. This may seem like a temporal fix to the problem. But, a permanent and more realistic version would be to “admit rather than cover”.

Rather than covering up your failures, they should be admitted. You can either admit it to yourself, or to those who might be affected as a result of your action. However, acknowledging our failures to ourselves and to others can be quite humiliating and depressing, because of how we’ve been conditioned to perceive failure (through society and our upbringing).

But the problem is not in the ‘acknowledgment of failure’, rather, it is the approach and manner in which we acknowledge our failures that set the difference. This brings us to the next phase;

3) The Art of Acknowledging Failure

Most people don't know how to admit their failures or errors, that is why they always feel reluctant to do so. They make the common mistake of;

  • Justifying their actions.

  • Playing the blame game.

  • Feeling defensive and insecure.

  • Talking too much about the problems caused by the fault.

The reasonable approach to admitting failure to yourself and to others is to simply do the reverse;

  • Rather than justify, apologize (to reduce any form of tension).

  • Take responsibility (You would weaken people's criticism when you do).

  • Be bold and confident to reply when scrutinized or questioned ( so that they know that the error was not committed intentionally).

  • Talk less about the problems, and more about the solutions to reduce attention on the fault. This would also reassure others that you know what you are doing, and you are still capable of delivering.

The Bottom line is ‘We are all Explorers’

It is always reasonable to leave all certainty behind when trying to tackle a task, or accomplish an objective. Nobody likes to fail at anything, but then again, things are not so black-and-white, and failure is inevitable in a reality that is always changing and evolving.

We are simply here to explore our options and purpose and see where it leads. Sometimes it might come out positive, sometimes negative. You don't have to take it personally when the outcome is the latter. You just need to live through the experience, learn, sort for fresh perspectives, and add your blunders to your memoir.

Not to sound preachy, but the worst thing you can do to yourself is not trying at all because you dread failing, or you want to get it 100% right the first time. You would only be trapped in a fantasy of potentiality without actualizing anything.

Believe it or not, people cherish success stories that have suffered countless failures and errors. It adds realism and character to the story, and it inspires them. Your failures and mistakes should not be your shame, but part of the story and legacy you want to leave behind for others to learn, and to draw inspiration from.

I want to appreciate you, if you've been reading my articles, and I understand that you can't make comments or ask questions here. It is a temporary glitch that would soon be resolved.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Preye Raymond

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