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9 Reasons Why You Can Succeed When You Fail

9 Reasons Why You Can Succeed When You Fail

If you asked yourself whether in order to succeed you’d be willing to fail many times, would you take the risk? Nine times out of 10 you’d get a reply with a resounding no! Avoidance of failure is a very human condition and settling for second best seems most preferable to risking it all and looking bad.

Yet as children, the thought of failure doesn’t even come into it. Children naturally will just go for it without a second thought. Why is that do you think?

As you grow, failure is everywhere. You are taught to not fail at school tests, to always be the best and anything else is just not good enough. You’ll get into trouble with your parents for doing things wrong, or laughed at by class mates for being different. You simply cannot win! Yet failure is vital for success. Failure makes what you want to achieve worth doing and doing well. So with that in mind, I’ve come up with a few reasons why this is so, and some tips on how to succeed through failure.

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1. It will provide you with a lesson to learn from

When something’s not gone quite as well as you had hoped, or indeed failed completely, there is always a message within that failure. Recognizing that failure is a lesson in life will keep you in good spirits each time it happens. It provides you with a chance to reflect back on what happened, what you would change for next time and what to not do again. Remembering that failure is an asset to your success is vital; it’s your greatest teacher and will make you far more grateful for your success when it arrives.

2. It’s a test of how committed you are

Failure can be hard to bear, it can make you feel like quitting and put doubts in your mind that weren’t there in the first place. However, if you look at failure as your ally and use it to push yourself even further forward than you were yesterday, it will make you realize how really committed you are to your goals. Failure teaches you to either give up or keep going, and will help you decide if you really want it enough.

3. Failure builds and refines your character

When life throws you a curveball, it tests your resilience and strength of character. Knowing that whatever happens you can pick yourself up and dust yourself down, builds confidence and a good attitude. No matter how hard things get, you know you can get through it. The knowledge that you are stronger than you were before is not only gratifying, but also makes you 10 times more attractive to those around you.

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4. It gets you trying new things

Instead of always doing what you’ve always done, which then makes sure you get what you’ve always got, failure will force you to try new things. The lessons learned from failure will be valuable, they will help you to work out what didn’t work before, what might work next, and in turn will get you to step out of your comfort zone. Staying stuck won’t be an option. If success is important to you, you’ll not want to fail again, so trying something new will be your only option.

5. It gives you room for growth

Failure teaches you that not everything happens when you want it to. However, it also teaches you that sometimes a change in direction or attitude is all that is needed to make something a success. Failure is important to your own growth because it makes you more aware of yourself, your choices and your actions. It also helps to question your belief system and values, making you realize you don’t always have to know the answers. Questioning more provides growth and change.

6. It increases self-awareness

Much the same as with growth, being self-aware helps you to understand your decisions and choices in life and your own reaction to them. When something doesn’t go to plan, you might have reacted in a negative way or perhaps felt angry about it. Failure will help you to look back on how you deal with it, making you realize, perhaps, that your own actions have contributed in some way to the failure. This makes you more accountable and responsible for your own life, and this is only ever a good thing!

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7. Failure helps you to seek out new relationships

When failure happens, whether it be in a personal or professional capacity, you will tend to seek out others for advice and guidance. This is a powerful way to establish new relationships, as they can help to nurture and complement you on your journey towards success. Also, knowing that you have someone or some people to discuss future strategies or failures with will help in the long term.

8. It reconnects you to your priorities

When you fail, it stops you in your tracks and helps you to question the reasoning behind your previous actions. It will help you to work out your priorities and what is most important to you. Your priorities are what makes you do what you do, and most importantly, are the reasons why you do them. Failure helps you to regain focus, take a step back and re-establish your roots.

9. It makes you realize you are not superhuman

Life has a habit of giving you stuff to get you thinking again, to knock you off track a little to make you realize you are not superhuman after all. Sometimes you have to take a few knocks to make you humble, and to recognize your perceived failures are really just chances to look at yourself again. It’s there to test you, to give you that sense that there is still so much more you can give and to help you to believe in yourself again. After all, success only comes to those who fail, and if not, it wasn’t worth it anyway!

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Featured photo credit: Flickr/DennisChow.com via flickr.com

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Paula Lawes

Paula loves people and connecting. She writes about communication and relationships tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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