Strategies to Overcome the Feeling of Failure
Helen Keller wrote, “The richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome.” She had some pretty amazing limitations, but our limitations, our obstacles, are just as real and just a big, to each one of us.
It’s great when we achieve our goals and conquer our mountains, but it doesn’t always turn out that way. Sometimes we don’t overcome the limitations, and can’t seem to solve the problems and sometimes the obstacles are going to stop us dead in our tracks.
When that happens, and it invariably will, what should we do?
There are four strategies to dealing with failure and the feelings that may arise.
Strategy 1: Accept that in order to do something really well, to get better and better, you need to continually put yourself in a position to fail, and, when you do fail, to correct for the failure.
“If things seem totally under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” — Mario Andretti
Realize that the journey to an important goal may not be a smooth one. There will be missteps, and blocks and dead ends. Prepare yourself for this, and do what you have to do. To do something really well, you have to continually put yourself in a position to fail and to correct for the failure. And the way you do that is by taking risks.
Strategy 2: Know that every mistake merely means an unwanted result. Every mistake is but on opportunity for learning.
Be aware to the positive aspects of what we call failure. The naval ships in World War Two had amazingly big guns, which would fire shells at targets on the land. The gunner, the person who aimed the gun, had two controls. The first control moved the gun left and right. The second control raised and lowered the gun. When the gunner thought he was on target he would fire the gun. Then he would carefully observe the result. If the shell went to the left of the target he would aim the gun to the right. If the shell went to the right of the target, he would aim to the left. If the shell went too far, over the target, he lowered the gun, but if it fell short of the target, he would raise the gun.
The gunner doesn’t bemoan the fact that he missed the target and call himself a failure. He corrects for the error. Each time he does this, he gets closer to the target. And he only has to hit it once.
Failures allow us to fine tune and correct; sometimes it’s the only way to hit the target. So thank your failure for the lesson it taught you, and use it, use the “failure”, to get closer to your target.
Strategy 3: Pat yourself on the back, because if you achieve everything you try easily and without failing, you’re probably not pushing your limits; you’re probably standing right on top of the target.
We don’t want to be one of those people who stand right on top of the target, but gain nothing by it. We want to be risk takers, moderate risk takers.
Strategy 4: Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again.
The song Pick Yourself Up by Jerome Kerns and Dorothy Fields, from which this strategy is taken, is one of the most inspirational songs I know. Don’t lose your confidence if you slip, the song goes, be grateful for a pleasant trip.
Perhaps because so many of us are tempted to just roll over and give up, many famous people have had something to say about what we need to do when we haven’t been able to accomplish what we have set out to do.
Oliver Goldsmith, an eighteenth century Anglo-Irish writer and poet said, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
The American poet, memoirist and actress Maya Angelou said, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.”
Failing to accomplish what we set out to do never feels good. But if you use these four strategies they will help you get the biggest bang for the buck from what did happen.