How to successfully deal with failure

Superscript
06 July 2021
4 minute read

Whether it's not being able to find a particular ingredient in the supermarket or the sales of your small business crashing – when it comes to anything in life, failure is always a potential outcome. And while the little flops are easier to handle, it’s the big failures that are harder to get over.

We’ve written before about why so many startups fail and one of them is the fear of failure itself. It has the power to dampen your self esteem and invite unwanted feelings of hopelessness, anxiety and even depression. Luckily, you can learn to cope with and even celebrate it.

This guide is filled with advice on failure, designed to turn your downfalls into opportunities.

So, let's run through the 6 steps.

1. Go through the motions

When failure happens, you’re likely going to feel all sorts of negative emotions such as anger, sadness and embarrassment. Many people might try and brush them off or play them down. But this only suppresses them, which isn’t the healthiest way to handle what's going on.

Instead, just ride the wave and let yourself feel them, for a short time at least. While it's not nice at the time, it’s all part of the coping process and will allow you to rise from it.

All we’d say is don’t get too down on yourself and spend loads of time wallowing. Give yourself time to grieve the failure, but then try and move towards a more positive mindset.

2. Remember, everyone fails

One thing that will help you reach a more positive mindset is to remind yourself that every single person has or will fail at some point in their lives.

Some of the most successful people on the planet have failed spectacularly. But you don’t know them as ‘the person who failed’, you only know of their achievements.

Realising that everyone fails can help you see that you’re not alone in going through this and that your failure does not define you. Every time we normalise failure, it becomes less of a big deal and more of a natural part of life, which will only make it easier to accept when it does happen.

The sheer amount of books, talks, podcasts and resources out there that all focus on failure is also proof that it’s a common occurrence.

Taking in some of these can also help to contextualise your feelings and will probably give you some valuable takeaways, too. Here are our top recommendations:

3. Live and learn

While it might not seem like it at the time, every failure has a lesson that you can take from it.

You could see failure as a bad thing or you could look at it analytically by asking yourself a series of questions and assessing the answers:

  • Why do you think you failed?
  • What were you hoping to achieve?
  • What could you have done differently?

Once you have your answers, you’ll be able to see what lessons you can take from the experience – or even learn that it wasn't a failure at all – and apply them to your next venture.

4. Share your story

A problem shared is a problem halved. And you might find solace in sharing your story, as you’re most likely going to be met by people who have gone through something similar and can empathise.

If your friends and family can’t relate, seek out people who might. Maybe you could put a call out on LinkedIn or Twitter asking people who have experienced failure before to get in touch and share how they dealt with it.

You never know, you might even make some new business connections as a result of this exercise.

5. See failure as a good thing

If you see failure as a bad thing, it’s probably because that’s how you’ve been taught to view failure throughout your life. If this is the case, we need to do some unlearning and start thinking of failure as a good thing.

This is, of course, much easier said than done. But there’s a lot of power in recognising when you’re having a negative thought and becoming mindful of why it’s negative.

For instance, a lot of the time our fear of failure is rooted in worrying about what people will think if we do fail. So, if we’re having thoughts like ‘if I fail, people will laugh at me and think I’m stupid’ we can stop ourselves and turn the thought around to something like ‘people’s opinions are out of my control and any negativity I receive because of my failure is a result of their internal problems, not mine’.

Instead of waiting for negative thoughts to arrive, we can also be proactive in affirming some positive thoughts.

Why not write some positive thoughts that you can repeat to yourself any time you need to be a bit kinder to yourself. These could include:

  • ‘Failure motivates me, teaches me and is a stepping stone to success’
  • ‘Failure is something to celebrate and learn something from’
  • ‘If I fail, it’s because I’m trying something new and that’s something to be proud of’

6. Embrace it

Ultimately, failure is always going to be an option but we shouldn’t let it stop us from pursuing our goals. The best thing we can do is accept that it could be part of our future and say “bring it on!”.

Heading into something new with determination, confidence, a positive attitude and the will to pick ourselves back up is a recipe for success.

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This blog post has been written as part of our Business is Personal campaign, which explores what it's like to be your own boss at this moment in time.

If you’d like to find out what kind of boss you’d be, why not take our quiz and see what you get!

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