How to Deal
With Failure

Five ways to turn a failure into a success

How to deal with failure

Everybody fails at one time or another. No matter how good you are, no matter if you've put in the time to prepare. To fail is to be human. And when it happens it usually sucks—you're left feeling stupid and blaming yourself for what went wrong. But here's the good news: That's actually okay.

Because while we judge ourselves and others by the successes we see on the outside, it's the failures that really shape us and make us stronger. To fail at something builds character and grit. As Truman Capote famously said, "Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor." So how do you turn this setback into a setup for success? By embracing it. Here is your proven path to get through your next fumble.


Go Ahead and Get Pissed

It's okay to be disappointed and even angry about things not working out. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making says you shouldn't try to suppress negative feelings after a failure. It's a common tactic to rationalize why something failed. But the researchers discovered that focusing on your emotions—rather than the failure itself—is actually helpful. Allowing yourself to feel bad can be motivating. Just don't dwell on it. Instead, use it to help you work harder to find better solutions to succeed in the future.

Don't Make It Personal

When focused on those negative feelings, be sure to separate the lack of success from your own identity. Just because something you attempted failed, it doesn't mean that you are a failure. It's easy to blur those lines, but imperative to your confidence that you don't combine the two. Take the famous example of Abraham Lincoln. Multiple businesses of his failed, he lost legislative, congressional and senatorial races and failed to become Vice President. Those failures didn't deter him from achieving his historic run as the 16th president of the United States.

Take Responsibility, but Don't Self-Sabotage

A study published in scientific journal Appetite found that people were more likely to sabotage their progress when they believed a mistake made them a total failure. In one experiment, dieters who ate pizza were told they'd completely blown their diets. Those who thought they were complete failures immediately ate 50% more cookies than individuals who weren't dieting. When a failure deals you a setback, don't let it discourage you from trying again. Look for explanations, rather than excuses. The key is reframing your thoughts—you can handle failure and you can learn from your mistakes. Remind yourself that your failure isn't a sign that you can't do something. It's a sign you're attempting something difficult but worthwhile.


How to deal with failure

Ignore the Need
for Approval

Nothing worth achieving is ever accomplished from within your comfort zone. But much of our fear of failing is associated with being judged or deemed a loser by other people. Some of those people matter, but many don't. And remember that what one person believes isn't necessarily true—Walt Disney was fired from a Missouri newspaper for "not being creative enough." Soichiro Honda was rejected when applying for an engineering job at Toyota, which led him to found the Honda Motor Company.

Start Planning
Your Next Move

Like we said earlier, dwelling on the failure won't get you to where you want to go. Think about all the things this failed attempt has taught you and use those lessons to move forward. What will you do differently? Is there something you need to figure out or learn before trying again? Create a plan that will put all this useful information to work for you.

Michael Jordan on failure

You're Not Alone

Here are 10 inspiring quotes on ways to look at, interpret and redefine failure by legendary thought leaders and contemporary movers and shakers.

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