Why does failure cause some people to give up on a dream while it drives others to pursue it with even more passion than before? It depends on how you approach a setback: Failure can be part of the long road to success—but only if you think about it in a productive way.
Beating yourself up over lack of success or declaring yourself a hopeless cause leads to unhelpful feelings, like shame and resentment. And it can lead to unproductive behavior, like staying inside your comfort zone.
The key to recovering from failure is changing the way you think so that you're able to turn your biggest setbacks into your best comebacks. Here are eight healthy ways to think about failure:
1. "Things didn’t work out the way I wanted, but I’m still OK."
Turning failure into a catastrophe isn’t helpful. Keep failure in proper perspective and choose to be grateful for what you have. Whether it's your health or having a roof over your head, there are always things to be thankful for.
2. "Failure is proof I’m pushing myself to my limits."
You could live a safe and boring life that is relatively free of failure if you wanted. But if you want to become a better version of yourself, you need to do things that might cause you to fail. Falling down is evidence that you’re trying hard to accomplish something.
3. "I will focus on the things I can control."
Failure isn’t always personal. Just because you didn’t get that promotion doesn’t mean you’re not good enough. It might just mean you were competing against someone more qualified. Focus on the things you can control—like doing your best—and less on the outcomes that you can’t control—like whether you’ll get hired.
4. "Failing feels uncomfortable, but I can handle it."
Doubting your ability to handle embarrassment, shame, or regret makes the pain of failure last longer. Remind yourself that you can handle failure, and you’ll be more likely to deal with the discomfort it may cause in a productive manner.
5. "Failure is a verb, not a noun."
Just because you fail doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Everyone succeeds at some things and not at others. Remind yourself of the successes you have had in other areas of your life.
6. "Failure is an opportunity to sharpen my skills."
If everything came easy, you wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn new things. Each time you fail, you can learn something new. Whether you discover a new solution to an old problem or you gain more insight, failure can help you do better next time.
7. "Recovering from failure can make me stronger."
Each time you bounce back from problems and rise above obstacles, you grow mentally stronger. Failure can show you that you’re tougher than you think and you can handle more than you imagine. Each time you fail, you build mental muscle.
8. "I’ve overcome tough things before. I can do it again."
Recalling times when you’ve rebounded in the past can help you feel equipped to deal with failure again. Draw upon the knowledge, tools, and talents you’ve used before and remind yourself that you have the capability to bounce back.
Want to know how to give up the bad habits that rob you of mental strength? Pick up a copy of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do.