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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up

How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up

In our high-achieving society, failure is often seen as the worst situation that one can encounter. Rather than embracing failure as a learning and growth opportunity, those who fail in some aspect of their lives will often see it as an immovable barrier, telling them that they are not capable of overcoming their weaknesses.

The truth is that failure is never the end of the road. It is simply an indicator that there are some parts of ourselves and our lives that we need to put more effort into in order to get the results that we desire.

Are you struggling to overcome failure, rise above it, and seek the path to success? For those who are having difficulty moving past failures, continue reading the article to learn how to deal with failure and pick yourself back up.

Our Brain on Failure and Success

The fear of failure and the excitement/happiness that comes from success, like other emotions, trigger reactions within certain portions of the brain, which helps to contribute to our overall learning and growth capabilities.

Dr. Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, has conducted extensive research on failure and how it operates within the brain to produce varying outcomes on subjects with different mindsets.[1]

In her research, she uncovered the link between those who remain undaunted by failure and those who can’t seem to push past their failure.

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The first group of her test subjects, who fell into the “growth mindset” group, showed massive improvement when faced with failure due to an enhanced focus state that was triggered shortly after failing a task, forcing them to learn and improve.

Those who fell into the “fixed mindset” group showed little to no improvement and remained unchanged by the failure that they were faced with.

There’s another interesting point to make when it comes to success and failure and their effects on the brain. According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, success has a huge impact on neuroplasticity in the brain and helps us to learn whereas failure has displayed impact on our learning.[2]

The study, which was conducted by Earl Miller, subjected monkeys to simple learning tasks in which they looked a certain direction when presented with one of two pictures. Those who successfully looked in the direction that the image was intended for were rewarded with a drop of juice and those who failed received nothing.

The brain activity in the monkeys that succeeded increased as the monkeys stored the new information and learned from their success. The monkeys that failed, however, showed little to no increase in brain activity after they completed the task unsuccessfully.

What is the takeaway of these studies?

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The most important lessons that these studies teach is that success is determined by mindset and drive, that giving in to failure produces absolutely no positive results, and that success breeds increased and continual success.

How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up

Now that you have a better grasp on some of the mechanics of failure and success, and how they affect us psychologically; let’s dive into some of the ways that you can effectively deal with failure and continue moving towards the success that is right in front of you!

1. Acknowledge the Failure (But Don’t Dwell or Take It Personally)

It’s important to acknowledge failure in your life when it happens. This will help you to identify what it is you need to focus on, so that you can approach the situation in a new way for success in the future.

That being said, it is important to acknowledge the failure but not to dwell on the failure, or to take it personally. When all you think about is the failure or you begin to associate yourself as a failure because you failed to do something correctly, it brings down your mood and your mindset for success.

2. View Failure as a Learning Opportunity and Take Notes

Failure is such a debilitating feeling because we associate it with losing and with finishing. Failing does not mean that you have lost. It also doesn’t mean that you need to be prevented from moving forward because of the failure.

Shift your perspective and view failure as an opportunity to grow and learn. Once you see failure in this light, you can then begin to approach it with a different mindset; a mindset that will help you to quickly transform your actions into ones that lead to success.

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3. Create a Map That Will Help Translate Failure into Success

When faced with failure, it can be difficult to convince ourselves to move forward. This is especially true if the failure that you were faced with was large and required a ton of work to go from point A to the not-so-successful point B.

No matter what the size of your failure is, don’t be afraid to go back to the beginning and chart out each of your decisions. Which ones worked? Which ones were unsuccessful? Once you’ve identified what didn’t work out, you can begin to replace those actions with better ones that will translate into success.

4. Accept Responsibility for Your Role in the Failure

Taking responsibility for the things you did wrong will help you in the long run. When faced with failure, your first instinct may be to direct the failure in another direction.

For example, you may choose to blame your failure on an external factor or on another person. Although this will help you feel better in the short-term and drive away the fear that typically comes with failure, it won’t help you to recognize your own role in the failure.

Only by recognizing your role in the failure will you be able to identify your shortcomings and do better next time!

5. Remind Yourself of past Failures and Successes When Faced with a Large Failure

There may be some failures in your life that seem too big to get over. The failure may cause you to get down on yourself and to feel less motivated than usual. During times like these, it is important to remember that failure is not the end of the world.

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Reflect on past successes to remind yourself that you are more than capable of achieving whatever it is that you set your sights on. Also, make sure to reflect on your past failures to remind yourself that you have always had the ability to move forward and overcome.

No matter what it is you are facing, you are always stronger than failure.

Final Thoughts

Failure can be daunting but it doesn’t have to be. You are always capable of taking your failure and turning it into success if you approach it the correct way.

More to Help You Get Back on Track

Featured photo credit: Greg Raines via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Reader’s Digest: Failure Can Enhance Your Brain
[2] Harvard Business Review: Success Gets into Your Head—and Changes It

More by this author

Dylan Buckley

Dylan is Lifehack's Motivation Expert specializing in self-development, with extensive experience working for life coaches and startups.

How to Help a Friend With Depression Learn to Love Life Again Mastering The Art of Happiness (9 Tips to Get Started) The Healthy and Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms for Stress How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up How to Do What You Love Successfully

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Last Updated on January 21, 2021

10 Willpower Hacks to Help Achieve Your Goals

10 Willpower Hacks to Help Achieve Your Goals

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“Willpower is essential to the accomplishment of anything worthwhile.” – Brian Tracy

“Just do it.” – Nike

The most important and satisfying things in life usually aren’t the easiest ones.

The good news: In today’s hyper-connected world, we have access to all the information we could want to help us achieve our future goals. We know what foods will make us healthier (would kale or quinoa be as popular without the internet and Dr. Oz? I think not). We can also estimate for ourselves the benefits of starting retirement savings early – and the implications for the lifestyles of our future selves (that boat at 65 means fewer vacations in your 20’s).

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We almost always know what we should do thanks to endless knowledge at our fingertips. But actually doing it is an entirely different kind of challenge. Most of us can relate to that feeling of inertia at the start of a big project, or the struggle to consistently make good, long-term choices for our health, or saving for the future. This mental tug-of-war we experience has evolutionary roots. While knowing this might bring comfort, it doesn’t help solve the problem at hand:

How can we flex our willpower to become better, faster, smarter, and stronger?

The bad news: you can’t Google your way out of this one.

Or can you? A fascinating body of research (much of which you can turn up online through popular press and academic articles) sheds light on how to hack your willpower for better, easier results in all areas of your life. The Willpower Instinct, a great book by Stanford prof Kelly McGonigal, provides a deep dive into these and more topics for anyone keenly interested.

Here’s the short version: we can make the most of our willpower through two types of hacks. First, there are ways to turbo boost your willpower. Second, there are ways to hack the system so you make the best use of whatever (sometimes infinitely modest) willpower you have.

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The following 10 tips draw on both of these toolkits.

1. Slow the heck down.

Most regrettable decisions (the splurge at the mall, the procrastination on the project, the snacks in the break room) happen when one part of our brain effectively hijacks the other. We go into automatic pilot (and unfortunately the pilot in question has a penchant for shoes, Facebook and cookies!). Researchers suggest that we can override this system by charging up the other. That is, slow down and focus on the moment at hand. Think about your breathing. Bring yourself back to this moment in time, feel the compulsion but don’t act on it yet. Try telling yourself, “If this feeling is still just as uncomfortable in 10 minutes, I’ll act on it.” Take a little time to be mindful – then make your decision.

2. Dream of ‘done.’

Imagine yourself handing in the big project, soaking up the appreciation from your colleagues or boss. Or crossing the finish line for the half-marathon you’ve always wanted to run. The rush, the aliveness, the wind on your face, the medal …

That’s a lot more fun and motivating to think about than how much work it is to get out of bed for your long, Sunday morning run!

Re-orient your brain by summoning more motivating feelings than just “not running this morning is more enjoyable than running this morning.” If your goals are meaningful, this will help.

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3. Make your toughest choices first.

Scientists have found that willpower is like a full bathtub that’s drained throughout the day. So, why not start your toughest challenges when you have a full reserve? Get that project started or fit that workout in before you even check your email or have breakfast. Bonus: the high you’ll get from crossing off your hardest ‘to-do’ will help you sail through the rest of your day.

4. Progress = commitment, not a license to backslide.

A lot of times people will ‘cheat’ right after taking positive steps towards their goals. (A common version of this trap is, “I worked out three days in a row, so I deserve this cookie.”) Most of us can relate to this thinking – but it’s totally irrational! We’ll often trick ourselves into setbacks because we think we deserve them, even if we don’t really want them and deep down we know they’ll work against us in the long-run.

How can you counteract this effect? Research finds that if you use your positive streak to recommit (“If I worked out three days this week, I must be really committed to my health and fitness goal!”) rather than an excuse for wiggle room, we don’t take the same cheat options. Cool, right?

5. Meditate.

Meditation is an expressway to better willpower. Bringing your attention to your breathing for 15 minutes, or even five, flexes your willpower muscles by applying discipline to your thinking. It does this by working two mental ‘muscle groups’: first, the set of muscles that notice when your attention is drifting, and second, the set of muscles that bring you back to your task at hand. Over time, even small amounts of meditation will help you build the discipline to easily do what was once hard – like pushing through a long stretch at work.

6. Set mini-goals.

Which seems more doable: committing to three 20 minute runs this week or a half-marathon? Mini-goals are brilliant because they’re easier to achieve and boost your commitment to continuing. When we size them up, we see them as achievable rather than daunting. Each time you succeed at one, it boosts your sense of efficacy and personal integrity: not only are you capable of doing what you set out to do, but you followed through on it. Nice.

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The beauty of mini-goals is that over time, mini-goals – and the momentum you’ve built by doing them – can quickly turn into super-goals. So that half marathon might be more likely to happen, and sooner and more easily than you think!

7. Eat.

Low blood sugar decreases your ability to make tough decisions. If you’re running on empty physically, you’ll also be running on empty mentally. (Yes, this one’s somewhat ironic if your goal involves changing food patterns – but even so, letting your blood sugar drop too far will only sabotage you over time.)

8. Sleep.

Research shows people who don’t get enough sleep have a tough time exercising their willpower. Sleep is critical for a healthy brain – along with just about everything else. So to optimize your willpower muscle, make sure you’re catching your zzz’s.

9. Nix the self-sabotage.

Making yourself feel bad hurts, rather than helps, your willpower efforts. Researchers have found that compassion is a far better strategy than tough love – telling yourself “It’s OK, everyone has setbacks sometimes,” will help you bounce back more quickly than negative self-talk.

10. Take the first hard step.

As a new behavior becomes a habit, it is more natural. You have to use less and less willpower to ‘make it so.’ When you’re starting a new pattern that feels hard, remind yourself that the first steps are truly the hardest. It will probably never feel harder than it does in those first few choices. In the case of repeated behaviors, like exercise or saving money, it takes weeks for new habits to take hold. By that point, the habit will be so ingrained, you’d have to try hard not to do it.

Featured photo credit: Kym Ellis via unsplash.com

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