Failure”, “Flop”, “Loser”…. These words, used almost interchangeably, automatically spring a picture into the mind of a person who is totally incapable and inefficient or a situation that is completely useless and hopeless. These harsh labels and its extremely negative connotations are very deeply ingrained in our psyche. Right from a very small age we are exposed to images and situations which make us think that failing is the worst thing to happen to anyone. Be it in exams, in competitions, in relationships, in work etc…. etc….. It is as if to fail means “The End”.
Often, not actually failing but the thought of the possibility of failing is by itself a big obstacle to progress in many individuals lives. This is referred to as the ‘fear of failure’ by social scientists and behavioral experts. It is believed that this fear of failure is one of the strongest forces that prevent people from achieving their full potential. The fear of failure is said to be closely related to the fear of rejection and fear of criticism. Most people put limitations or barriers for themselves. They do not achieve a fraction of what they are capable of achieving because they are afraid to try and because they are afraid they will fail.
Whether as a consequence of actual failure or just its projection, it has been found that some people tend to play safe, to avoid risks. Often people internalize the reasons for failing. They attribute it to their inability, their bad destiny or to the belief that it is what they deserve. Sometimes, they develop a very negative self- image or view of themselves. Their self-confidence plummets drastically. Their social life gets affected. There is a lot of apprehension regarding what others will think, on loss of face etc. Their friends circle diminishes or at least appears to do so in their perception. All this leads to their spiraling down into depression and in extreme cases even developing suicidal tendencies.
In reality, however, a failure could be the result of an interaction between many things – both internal and external. The circumstances leading to the act or instance of failing may not always be within one’s control. Moreover, the situation is frequently not as terrible as one perceives it to be. Thus, what is believed to be beneficial is to analyze the situation objectively. Identify the probable causes of the failure. And then, most importantly mobilize one’s resources to consider alternative action towards one’s goal. Most people underestimate their merit and ability to recover from failure, leading them to pass up valuable opportunities.
History has numerous examples of famous people who despite initial failures have got back to achieving spectacular success in their chosen endeavors. Here are some tips to handle failure:
Don’t take failure personally – We must try and avoid being too self – judgmental, too hard on oneself. We have to also avoid the pitfalls of labeling, calling oneself or others a “ failure”, “ loser”. There has to be clarity in the understanding that one’s plans, action or ideas can fail but that does not mean one is a failure.
Understand the benefits of failure – Every experience provides us with an opportunity to learn. Therefore every mistake or failed action tells us all options that won’t work and help us to identify those that will. This will help us to improve ourselves and the situation and do things differently in the future.
Don’t give up – To quote a Chinese proverb – “Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up.” No matter what, do not give up on your dream. Try alternate ways to reach your goal. View it as a challenge or a temporary setback – a pause, rather than considering it a verdict. Seek help to find answers to yourself, keep yourself motivated, remind yourself of the ultimate goal of your life and keep going.
Consider worst case scenario V/s cost of missed opportunities – Immediately after a mistake or unsuccessful action, it appears daunting to start again because of the risk of failing again. It will help here if we try and visualize what could go wrong in the worst case scenario. We have to then weigh them against what we are likely to lose or not achieve by not trying. Often, we realize that things need not be as bad as we imagine or expect they will be. If we never dare we will also never know the taste of success.
Research the alternatives – Once we decide to work towards the goal again, we must first reassess the circumstances, brainstorm on all the possible routes before making the final choice.
Make a new plan – We have to start afresh with an open mind. We need to do things differently to reduce the risks of failing again
- Take action – Finally we must take the plunge. Just act.
Thus in a nut shell …To fail the concept of failure:
- Set realistic goals
- Possess a clear awareness of one’s strength, weakness
- Equip ourselves with the knowledge of existing resources, and means of obtaining necessary resources.