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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.

Why You Feel Stuck in Your Career After Staying in a Job Longterm How to Find Work Motivation When You’re Unfulfilled at Work How to Get Out of a Rut and Start Living the Life You Desire 13 Things to Do When You Feel Uninspired and Stuck Where You Are How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up

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Last Updated on April 24, 2019

The Key to Happiness and Leading a Fulfilling Life

The Key to Happiness and Leading a Fulfilling Life

If I ask you “what is happiness?”, then what would your answer be? It’s probably difficult to come up with a simple answer. Yet, here you are, looking for a key to happiness and how to lead a fulfilling life.

The truth is that a universal key to happiness is a myth.

That doesn’t mean that you should stop looking for yours right now, it only means that you need to be careful when reading articles about “a key to happiness”. The universal key to happiness is non-existent because happiness is one of the most difficult things in life to define.

How Do You Define Happiness?

Now, let’s go back to that difficult question: “what is happiness?”

Have you thought about it already? Let me give you an example of how hard it is to define happiness.

Right now, I’m drinking a cup of coffee while writing the outline of this article about how to define happiness. Am I happy right now? Yes, I’m feeling pretty happy:

  • I’ve got nothing to worry about.
  • All my basic needs are met.
  • My family, friends, and girlfriend are all happy as well.
  • The weather is nice.
  • I’m going outside in a couple of minutes to go for a walk.

These things are all making me feel pretty happy right now.

By that logic, let’s define my happiness as follows:

“Happiness is when I’m in a worry-free state, the weather is nice, everybody I know is alright and I can enjoy a hot cup of coffee.”

Voila. There it is. My definition of happiness.

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The keys to my happiness are obvious now, and I know enough in order to lead the happiest life I can. I just need to focus on the things I listed above.

Your Definition of Happiness Changes over Time

Wait a second… If it were this simple, then why have I ever been unhappy?

You might have guessed it already, but I made a very simple error. I assumed that what makes me happy today will make me happy for the rest of my life. And that’s just wrong.

Happiness is something that not only changes from person to person, but it’s also constantly evolving from day to day. This is why happiness is such a difficult concept, and why there’s not a single “key to happiness”.

Whoever tells you otherwise is likely not aware that people change, and that people don’t always share the same values, goals, and purposes.

How to Find the Key to Happiness

1. Define What Happiness Means to You!

For a minute, I want you to do consider your own happiness. I want you to think back of last week, and consider what things you did that had a positive effect on your happiness.

What things had a significant influence on your mood? What comes to your mind?

Was it spending time with your friends? Was it a great movie you watched? Did you attend an exciting sports event? Or did you enjoy sipping hot coffee on a sunny Wednesday morning? It could obviously be just about anything!

It’s important to realize that all these things were part of your “key to happiness”. Your happiness was defined by these things, and you just measured a small part of that.

Does that mean you now know all the answers? Do you now know how to live the rest of your life? No. But you do know what things made you happy last week, and that’s very useful information when determining your own definition of happiness to build on.

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If you consciously keep track of what factors determine your happiness, then you are more likely to find out just how much your definition of happiness can vary from time to time. This knowledge can help you find your key to happiness.

A Personal Example

You see, even though happiness is claimed to be the factor of life that’s the most difficult to measure, you can still measure how you define your own happiness each day. It’s simple.

For me personally, when I think back of last weekend, I remember that I really enjoyed spending time with my girlfriend, walking through the woods on a sunny day and just relaxing (a.k.a. doing nothing!)

These are happiness factors that were a vital part of my happiness definition this weekend. I had just survived a long and busy week at work, so I was really trying to find some easy enjoyment. The things that I did this weekend were perfect for the occasion, as it was a very happy day for me.

If you were to ask me what the key to my happiness was that weekend, I’d give you the following answer:

To spend quality time with my girlfriend, being able to enjoy the good weather while being carefree and relaxed.

While this is unlikely to be the key to your happiness for the rest of your life, it is a pretty good start.

You can do exactly the same. All you need to do is to define your own happiness from day to day.

2. Find Your Purpose in Life

The next step to determining your key to happiness is to determine the things that give you purpose. You will live a fulfilling life when you’re happily tracking towards a purpose. Something that you’re passionate about.

Let’s use the previous example of my key to happiness. Will I be happy for the rest of my life when I focus exclusively on a relaxed and carefree feeling? Probably not, because it will not lead to a very fulfilling life. Not for me, at least.

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There are some things that drive my actions in a much bigger sense than only my daily, short-term happiness. For some people, that purpose could be:

  • To take care of a loving family
  • To build a successful company
  • To climb the highest mountains
  • To be rich and famous

You have to find out what your purpose in life is in order to truly determine your key to happiness. Only then will you be able to define a sustainable plan that will make you both happy and fulfilled.

It’s important to know that you can find your purpose only when trying out new things. This is a crucial part of finding your key to happiness. You can’t read an article online (like this one) and suddenly learn about what your key to happiness is!

The same thing goes for finding your purpose. You can’t expect to find your purpose without trying new things. People stumble upon their purpose in life in lots of different ways.[1]

Combine Your Purpose in Life with the Keys to Your Happiness in Order to Lead a Fulfilling Life

Now, this might sound like a mouthful.

A purpose in life x keys to your happiness = fulfilling life?

It’s actually really simple. Let’s take the following example:

I’ve found that my purpose in life is to become the CEO of a great and powerful charity (I know, I know…)

I feel a purpose and sense of accomplishment when working towards these goals. However, should I therefore sacrifice everything in my life in order to reach that purpose? Should I work 100 hours a week, disregard any relationships and use sleep medication just to fall asleep under the stress?

Nope. If I do that, I might reach my purpose, but I won’t still be happy.

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However, if I spend the rest of my life similar to how I spent my last weekend (enjoying the sun and walking through the forest) I will also miss long-term happiness. That’s because I won’t feel like my life has a purpose.

Your key to happiness and the purpose of your life need to compliment each other. They need to be in balance.

3. Destination = Happiness = Journey

You’ve probably heard the saying:

“Happiness is a journey, not a destination”.

Think of the destination as your purpose, and think of the journey as the things you do that make you happy (the keys to your happiness).

You can’t spend your life running (or sprinting) towards your destination, because you’ll forget to enjoy the journey.

At the same time, you can’t head out on your journey without having a destination in mind.

That’s why I believe your happiness is a product of both the journey and the destination.

Or in other words, you need to combine your purpose in life with the keys to your happiness in order to lead a fulfilling life. This will allow you to create a road map – a specific and concise plan – that will help you determine how to best lead your life. If you’ve done that, you’re ready to steer your life in the best direction possible!

Final Thoughts

The most important thing to remember when trying to define your keys to a happy and fulfilling life is simple:

There is no universal key that leads to your happiness. That’s because your happiness is unique in each and every single way. What you can do is:

  • Realize that you can define the factors that make you happy.
  • Know that your happiness – and the factors that influence it – change over time, and so will your “key to happiness”.
  • Find out what your purpose in life is. You can only do this by trying out many things. You can’t learn this from simple reading an article!
  • Combine your purpose and the things that make you happy in order to get the best idea of how to steer your life in the best direction possible!

Featured photo credit: Sam Manns via unsplash.com

Reference

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