Failure chips away at us. It might manifest as an unsuccessful business venture, a doomed relationship or a relapse into bad habits, but chip after chip after chip, these tragedies cleave little pieces of our hope, patience and self-esteem, leaving behind a sense of bitter pessimism that’s difficult to shake.
In truth, however, this chipping is chiseling, sculpting you into a better person. With every mistake you make, you learn a lesson, and with every lesson learned, you develop into a dynamic individual with a fresh understanding of the world. Your failures carve and shape you into your best self, stronger and sharper.
After all, how dull would life seem if you were always successful in everything you tried? It’s human nature to thrive on challenge, to perpetually push toward improvement in the pursuit of something greater. Without challenge, without testing your skills and willpower, “success” has no inherent value.
Consider JK Rowling, who struggled to publish the first installment in a franchise that would eventually earn her over $1 billion. Or take Robert Downey, Jr., for example, an actor who made an incredible comeback from addiction to star in today’s highest-grossing movies. They both have something in common: They didn’t give up. In this article, we’ll detail ways you can recover from failure, and what to do after the dust has settled and it’s time to start building again.
1. Determine What Caused the Mistake
As the old familiar quote goes, “Those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” If you don’t know what led you to make the mistake, you can’t take the necessary precautions to avoid it next time, and you’ll end up making the same mistake over and over in a vicious cycle.
Put aside a significant portion of time for serious self-reflection. Confront the fundamental flaws in your character that resulted in your failure. Through examination and self-evaluation, you can change your behavior to avoid potential issues and grow into a more confident, competent person.
It’s as simple as composing a list of your strengths and weaknesses. List your positive and negative traits side by side and decide what you’d like to change. Afterward, make a concrete goal and write down the individual steps you’ll need to reach it, organizing an action plan to achieve success.
2. Forget the Past and Move Forward
It’s easy to fall into the trap of self-pity, replaying your mistakes on repeat in your mind like you have something to gain from suffering. And while it’s easier said than done, you’ll need to shed this defeatist attitude and adopt a positive perspective. Look to the future, not back into the past.
Treat optimism like a muscle you can exercise. Things are rarely as bleak as they first appear, so try to approach your situation from an objective point of view, free from your bias. Within the greater context of your life, this failure is just a single event, and comparatively insignificant.
To work toward adopting a positive perspective, try keeping a notebook to list all the things you’re grateful for. In writing down the names of people who have helped you along the way and the opportunities you’ve enjoyed, you’ll come to appreciate all the advantages you’ve had.
As Alex Denholm of Ghost Insights notes, even if your biggest failure was overcoming an addiction, you can still channel this positively to make you a better person. For example, some people are addicted to eating right, exercising and even running successful businesses. Transform that negative energy into something that can improve your life going forward.
3. Revisit Your Plans in a New Light
With an unsuccessful business venture, failure can result in an enormous loss of money. If you sunk significant assets into a plan that fell apart, or you found yourself the target of a dubious marketing scheme, you may lack the resources you need to start over. But you don’t have to let it weigh you down.
If anything, this kind of failure allows for new opportunities and reinvention. It demands that you prioritize what’s important to you, cut out unnecessary distractions and adapt yourself to a difficult environment. These stressors temper and mold you into a capable individual and savvy businessperson.
After you’ve taken the necessary time to recuperate, return to your plans and review them with fresh eyes. You’ll likely notice points you missed before and see the areas where you ran into trouble. Today’s hardships represent valuable experience that will contribute to your success tomorrow.
You Always Have a Choice…
…and no one can take that from you. Whether you want to hide away in your room or change yourself and prove your worth, you have agency and free will. The decisions you make are yours and yours alone, and no one can tell you where to go from here, because that destination is different for everyone.
Perseverance is what separates losers from winners. That means going the extra mile when you’re exhausted, out of breath and ready to give up. It’s steeling your resolve in the face of adversity and choosing to press on — to not surrender, retreat or give ground to your anxiety and fear.
As Winston Churchill so eloquently phrased it, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”
Kayla Matthews is a productivity and self-improvement writer whose work has been featured on Dumb Little Man, Lifehacker and Tiny Buddha. She’s also been a frequent contributor at MakeUseOf and The Next Web in the past. To see more of Kayla’s work, visit ProductivityTheory.com or follow her on Twitter @KaylaEMatthews.