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How to Change the Way You Think about Failure

The word failure has such a negative connotation that it stands on its own as an insult.  It’s the epitome of what you don’t want to be.  When you fail at something, especially if it is something that you’ve worked hard for or had a great desire to achieve, it has a strong effect on our self-esteem and we often times feel that we are somehow now inadequate and less than what we were mere seconds before the failure occurred.  The truth is that that is the exact kind of thinking that leads you further from success.  So how do we change the way we think about failure?

Get to Know Failure

The first thing you should know about failure is that it’s actually the stuff that greatness is made of.  Okay, maybe it’s not the peanut butter or the jelly, but it is definitely the bread.  After all, what kind of sandwich could you make without the bread?  Failure is the foundation, the start, the learning, the practice, the almost, and all the places that came after first.  It’s important to note that a lot of those that didn’t come in first may have still set a personal record.

What does failure look like?  Failure looks like J.K. Rowling who was turned down by twelve different publishers.  It looks like Steve Jobs who was fired from the company that he began only to become the CEO later.  It looks like Bill Gates who not only dropped out of Harvard but whose first business, Traf-O-Data failed miserably.  Traf-O-What?  Exactly.

They have some of the most recognizable names in our current history and no one would be quick to argue that they are failures.  Yet they have failed.  We have all failed at some point and we will most likely all fail again.

What It Really Means

The key to changing the way you think about failure is to accept it as part of the success.  Every time you fall down you get back up stronger and one step closer to keeping your balance.  Taking failure and letting it defeat you and demotivate you keeps you from success.  Taking each failure and using it as a learning experience puts you closer to the success that you want to achieve.

What to Do Next

It’s okay to feel emotional after a failure.  You’ve most likely worked hard and your ultimate goal was to succeed. So, anything less than that is an undesired result.  Let yourself feel bad, but only for a moment.  Don’t dwell on your failure or it will consume you.  Take a deep breath, have a good cry, go for a run, whatever it takes to take the edge off and then be done with the feeling.

Not only should you avoid getting caught up in the feeling for too long, you should also avoid spending time on blame.  You will most likely go back over your steps at some point to see where you went wrong or where you could have improved but that shouldn’t include finding a scapegoat for your failure.  Blame is a time and emotion waster.  Look for ways to improve, things to eliminate from your process, or things that will add value.

Try again.  And again.  Repeat until success is achieved.  Once you succeed all of your hard work will be worth it and that is ultimately the only thing you truly need to focus on.

 ‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’

-Thomas A. Edison

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