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Recovering from Failure

By Dr Sima Patel

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

– Winston Churchill

Many people will have realised that the ambitious goals they had set themselves at the beginning of January are just not transpiring. Feeling that we have failed can be painful, disappointing and demoralising. It can make us feel that our goals seem to be tougher to achieve and our ability to achieve them seem weaker. This can damage our motivation and effort in pursuing our goals as we are likely to believe that we are going to fail. Failing also makes people risk averse as confidence is lost. This can create a feeling of helplessness. This can lead people to make incorrect and damaging generalisations in sweeping and self –punishing ways. So we can end up drawing incorrect and unnecessary conclusions about our abilities, capacities, general intelligence and even about our ‘luck in life’ or what was or was not ‘meant to be’. This makes it harder for us to get back onto our feet again and pursue the things that we feel are necessary in life. Research indicates that we can heal our wounds in a number of ways and thereby increase our chances of success in the future as follows:

Recognise that failure twists your perceptions about the task itself and about your capacities.

You do not have to give in to this distortion. Try adopting a mindset of persistence and optimism.

Review your self-worth.

Try to ignore your recent failure for a moment and make a list of the qualities and capacities you possess that make it possible for you to succeed. Ask a friend or someone who knows you really well to remind you of your strengths so that you can read your list and realise that your capabilities still exist.

Remind yourself of the signs of success that you want to achieve & what they mean to you.

By reconnecting to the reasons you began pursuing your goal in the first place your motivation can increase. Start to consider what the signs would be when you are succeeding and how you will feel when you succeed.

Focus on factors in your control.

Failures can be attributed to inadequate planning, poor preparation and lack of effort. Try to work out what was lacking in your planning, how you can be better prepared in the future and how and where you can invest more effort.

Reframe the failure as a single incident.

Make a list of the specifics of the situation that might be different when you approach the task next time. For example, what could be different in terms of your circumstances, factors related to other people, your mood, other people’s mood, the time of year, the weather, your general frame of mind, your strength of humour and so on. Consider the many factors that might be different when you try again.

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

– Oscar Wilde

Dr Sima Patel Chartered Psychologist and Coach

15 New Road | Brighton | East Sussex | BN1 1UF Telephone: 01273 803 013

Posted in Wellbeing Practice on Feb 01, 2017