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Published on November 12, 2018

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.

Failure, Success, and the Brain

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.

Breaking Free of Failure and Moving Towards Success

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.

Need some extra help or motivation to help you tackle your failure? Here’s how to get unstuck in life:

Feeling So Stuck in Life That You’re About to Give Up? Help is Here!

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.

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Last Updated on December 3, 2018

How to Live up to Your Full Potential and Succeed in Life

How to Live up to Your Full Potential and Succeed in Life

Have you ever heard the phrase “He had so much potential, it’s a shame he wasted it.” In our culture, not living up to your full potential is frowned upon, but why?

In this article, we will look into the factors that influence a person’s potential and the ways to help you live up to your full potential for a successful life.

What Determines a Person’s Potential?

A person’s potential is determined by several factors: Physical Security, Emotional Security, Environment and Mindset.

Physical Security

Before we can even strive to fulfill our potential, our basic physical needs must be met. Without adequate food, water and shelter, our days must be spent acquiring these basic needs in order to survive.

You can think of it this way, the person with the potential to become the most brilliant computer programmer ever could be living right now with a nomadic tribe in sub-Saharan Africa. But because they must spend their days meeting these basic physical needs, that potential will remain untapped.

Emotional Security

Humans are social animals, we don’t do well in isolation. Studies have shown that forming intimate bonds with others is incredibly important for our mental health. These bonds start to develop in infancy, babies rely on this bond with a parent or caretaker to fulfill their needs, and if the bond is missing for some reason it can have lifelong psychological consequences.

Environment

Your environment is another important factor that shapes how you achieve your full potential.

Just like the computer programmer in the previous example. You could have the potential to be the greatest composer since Beethoven, but if you had no access to music or you came from a family that didn’t value that skill set, it’s unlikely that you would fulfill your potential in that area.

Mindset

For most of us, we don’t have to worry about getting enough food, water or shelter. Both our physical and emotional needs have been met (to a large extent anyway). And any limits that our environment has imposed are minimal (especially with the availability of the internet).

So for most of us, the main thing that is limiting us from reaching our full potential is our mindset. Our mindset is the story we carry around with us in our head. It starts to develop in childhood and can be with us our entire life.

Your Mindset Is the Key

The problem with most people’s mindset is that it’s negative and limiting. The good news is that you can change your mindset. Author Carol Dweck in her best selling book Mindset points out that there are two types of mindsets: fixed and growth.

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A Fixed Mindset

A fixed mindset is one where you have concrete beliefs about yourself. Someone with a fixed mindset came up with “their story” in childhood and it hasn’t changes much over the years. They may believe that they aren’t good at public speaking, math or writing just because they struggled with those subjects in school.

So when something goes wrong, a common thought for someone with a fixed mindset is “What an idiot, I knew I wasn’t any good at that.” Or “Well that just confirmed what I already knew, I won’t be doing that again”. Having a fixed mindset just reinforces negative thoughts and attitudes, making it harder to reach your full potential.

A Growth Mindset

A growth mindset, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite. With a growth mindset, you believe anything is possible (but don’t confuse this with being delusional! As a 5’10” 54 year old I’m not going to play in the NBA!). It’s more of the way you think about and approach problems.

Let’s go back to the issue of not being good at public speaking, when things go wrong, instead of telling yourself that you have never been good at public speaking and never will be. A person with a growth mindset will analyze what went wrong and come up with solutions to make it better next time.

For instance, they may take a class on public speaking at their local community college, or join the Toastmaster’s organization. Whatever it is, they don’t look at failure as an insurmountable roadblock, rather a minor detour on the road to their destination.

How to Live up to Your Full Potential and Succeed in Life

1. Develop a goal

When setting goals, it’s important to keep in mind three things:

First, they should be specific and not vague. So instead of saying “I want to live up to my full potential in life”, a more specific goal would be “I want to become the best (salesman, artist, internet marketer) that I can be.” This is a much more specific goal.

Second, your goal should be measurable. In other words, you should be able to measure your progress towards the goal. Again, it’s much easier to measure your progress to becoming the best artist you can be than it is trying to measure your progress at living up to your “full potential”.

Finally, a goal must be written down. This takes the goal out of the realm of wishful thinking and makes it more real. It also can serve as motivation if you post your goal where you will see it. Put it on your desk, or next to your computer just to remind yourself to keep moving forward. In short, a goal that isn’t written down is just a wish.

This article can help you about setting personal goals to become a great achiever:

How Setting Personal Goals Makes You a Greater Achiever

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2. Understand that achieving your goal is often times a by-product of what you are doing

Let’s say that your goal is to become the best writer you can be. You may want to measure your success by your ability to get published or in the case of blogging, how widely read your articles are.

Instead of constantly worrying about reaching your goal to be the best, your time is much better spent just writing. As with anything, the more you do it, the better you’ll get.

It’s the same with any goal, it’s important to set them, but achieving your goal of becoming the best salesperson is really just the by-product of you getting out there and selling!

3. Don’t let popular opinion dissuade you

Have you ever heard of the Bannister Effect? For years it was considered a law of nature that the human body was incapable of running a mile in less than 4 minutes. That was until May 6, 1954 when Roger Bannister ran a mile in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds. He did what was long considered impossible, but it turned out that it was only impossible because people believed it was impossible.

Roger Bannister didn’t let popular opinion stand in his way, and after he proved that the 4 minute mile was only a psychological barrier, others have continued to break records. Today the current record holder is Hicham El Guerrouj with a time of 3 minutes 43.13 seconds!

4. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope

Almost by definition, living up to your full potential requires you to step outside your comfort zone and expand your boundaries.

Average people do average things, get average results and live average lives. Extraordinary people do extraordinary things, get extraordinary results and live extraordinary lives.

You’ll only live your best life once you step out. Here’s how.

5. Practice discipline

Admittedly, this comes easier for some people than others, but it’s a skill that you can develop and will serve you well in all aspects of your life.

Another way of thinking about discipline is just delayed gratification. How many times have you been on a diet, but there’s a piece of cheese cake in the refrigerator calling out your name!

Having discipline is not a matter of not wanting the cheese cake, discipline is acknowledging your desire for the cheese cake but realizing that this craving is only temporary, and once it passes, you will be much happier that we didn’t succumb to a temporary urge.

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The bottom line here is that while you may want to stop working at 5pm sharp, or watch the game on Saturday, but by developing the discipline to delay satisfaction you will be pushing your boundaries and reaping the rewards that come from that extra effort.

6. Be confident

Have you ever dealt with someone who was new at their job and lacked confidence? Maybe it was a salesperson who couldn’t answer basic questions about a product or just gave you flat out wrong information. Did you end up buying from that salesperson?

My guess is no, I sure wouldn’t.

Confidence comes with knowledge, discipline and experience. But how do you develop confidence if you are just starting out like our intrepid salesperson? While experience comes with time, knowledge can be acquired fairly quickly, especially if you have already mastered the art of self discipline!

A good rule of thumb is to always start with knowledge. Learn as much as you can, take classes, get a mentor or just do research. If you are disciplined enough to develop the knowledge it will make getting the experience much easier.

7. Accept that you will fail

There is no such thing as an overnight success. Failure is a part of life and it happens to everyone. In fact, there is a whole body of thinking that failure is actually better than success!

While most of us would agree that success is better than failure, when it does happen, here are some thing to keep in mind:

Don’t take it personally. A failure in a job, career, business or marriage is just that. It is not reflection on you as a person. I had a friend who lost his entire fortune (over 20 million dollars) in a business deal. I called him shortly after and as expected he was very depressed. My only advice to him was to:

“Never confuse your self worth with your net worth”.

Move on, failures can be heartbreaking, embarrassing and demoralizing. Take the time needed to go through those feelings and process the emotions. Then, let it go, holding on to negative emotions keeps you stuck in a fixed mindset. Remember that your goal here is to live up to your full potential and succeed in life. Dwelling on past mistakes and failures is the surest way to derail your progress.

Let failure be a learning opportunity. I know it’s a cliche, but it’s a cliche for a reason, it’s true! When I first started internet marketing, I started using Facebook ads for practically everything I did. Pretty soon I found that I was spending about $1,000 on ads that were generating about $200 in income, not a very good business model! I took that failure and redesigned my marketing efforts. I was able to both reduced my costs and increased my sales so that now for every $1,000 in advertising I am generating around $5,000 in income.

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8. Learn to embrace uncomfortable situations

Succeeding in life by living up to your full potential means embracing uncomfortable situations. Chris and Heidi Powell, well known personal trainers and hosts of the show Extreme Weight Loss use this technique with their clients. It works like this:

They set a goal for their client that the client thinks is just out of reach. Then through encouragement and motivation, they help the client work though the uncomfortableness and pain to achieve the goal.

This technique works for both physical and psychological challenges. Both our bodies and minds are capable of much more that we think they are.

9. Set small goals to achieve big results

When you are first setting goals, don’t be afraid to make them big! “I want to be the #1 salesperson in the company” or “I want to be a successful artist”. But once you have those goals set, you then need an action plan to get there. It’s in this action plan that you should set many small, easily attainable goals.

For the salesperson, it might be to increase the number of sales they make by one a week in the next quarter, two a week for the 2nd quarter etc… For the artist, it might be to master a technique before the next art show, or produce X number of works to sell at the art show.

Whatever the goals are, they need to get you closer to your ultimate goal while at the same time be attainable. Success builds on success, so achieving these small goals helps to motivate you to continue on to your bigger goals.

10. Take time to recharge

Everyone needs “down time”, trying to do everything yourself, all at once is a recipe for disaster.

We talked a lot about being motivated and disciplined in this article; while they are essential to living up to your full potential and succeeding in life, having adequate down time is just as important.

Any personal trainer will tell you that to get the most out of your workouts, you need to take 1 to 2 days off a week. This gives your body a chance to recover and actually get stronger.

The same is true when we are trying to expand our boundaries and fulfill our potential. Making sure we have adequate down time prevents fatigue anxiety and poor decision making.

Final Thoughts

The success you’ll find from living life to your full potential is its own reward. One day, we all will look back on our lives and and think “I wish I would have done …”, “I had a chance to to be a … but I was to scared”, “I could have been a great … if I had put the time in.”

I hope that in this article, we have given you both the motivation and tools to push yourself to your full potential in life, so that when you look back one day your regrets will be few.

Featured photo credit: A L L E F . V I N I C I U S Δ via unsplash.com

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