Sunday, February 20, 2011

Learning to Fail Better...

" 'Failing Better' boils down to controlling our emotions, adjusting our thinking, and re-calibrating our beliefs."
-Psychology Today, 2009

I've gotten a lot of great feedback (both in comments section of the blog and on twitter) on my post on Success and Failure. Ironically, tonight I was going through old magazines that have stacked up in my room, and I found an article from the June 2009 Psychology Today magazine entitled "Weathering the Storm." After skimming the article, I was again reminded of something crucial in regards to failure:
It gives us the opportunity to stop, reevaluate, and try again.

Oftentimes, when we fail, we want to give up, or we half-heartedly try again. However, we so easily forget that when we fail, this can be a time of great learning and growth. We forget that we can come out of these times better, stronger, wiser, and healthier people if we deal with these times in a healthy manner, and if we intentionally try to learn from them! This is how resiliency can start to develop-We fall, and we learn how to stand up once again. I know that I'm often incredibly tempted to give up when things don't work out, and I'm so glad that I haven't defined myself as a failure and given up through those times. I definitely wouldn't have gotten my master's or finished my thesis, two of the things I'm most proud of in my life, if I had given up the first or the second time things didn't work right.

We can't prevent ourselves from "failing"-we are imperfect people who will constantly make mistakes, but we can choose what to do once it has happened.

So here are a few things that the article suggested for "failing better" in life:

1. Lighten Up- Sometimes we just take ourselves too seriously, and we need to develop a sense of humor. Humor allows us to gain a different perspective on the situation, and laughter decreases the heightened levels of stress.
2. Join the Club- Find others who are in your situation, and vent-eventually you will vent yourself out and start coming up with solutions. (A side note: venting can be healthy, but ruminating to the point of just staying stuck is not. Vent, and start looking for the "now what")
3. Feel Guilt, Not Shame- guilt is "something I did", while shame is "something I am"). You may have messed something up, but you are not the mess up or the failure
4. Cultivate Optimism- thinking flexibly and learning to increase your options. Sometimes we stay so stuck on only one option, that we forget to look at alternatives. This generates pessimism instead of optimism. Remember, fight against the cognitive distortions that come so easily and naturally.
5. Ask Not What The World Can Do For You... What can you give back to the world? Sometimes failure gives us to opportunity to be free to give in ways that we couldn't otherwise.
6. Scale Down Your Expectations For Yourself- Are you holding yourself up to unreasonable, perfectionist standards? Set realistic expectations for yourself. It's fine to dream and to push yourself, but if you set unrealistic expectations, you will have no option but to fail. It's a losing game.
7. Harness the Bridget Jones Effect-JOURNAL! It not only gets stuff from inside your head out, but it allows you to view it in a different perspective. This also allows for more discovery, and a reevaluation of things in life.
8. Don't Blame Yourself- If you attribute all your "failures" to being something fundamentally wrong with you, your mood will decrease dramatically, and you will continue to fail again. There is no optimism is constant self-blame.
9. Act! "Failure is an opportunity to change course. Seize it!"

What have you accomplished in life that you wouldn't have achieved had you given up after the first attempt? 

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