Failure comes in all shapes and sizes and it can be something different for everyone. Failure might be getting a bad grade on an exam, receiving a poor project review or not being offered a promotion. Whatever you deem a failure, how you respond to failure becomes more significant than the failure itself.
When you fail, your first instinct may be to analyze the situation in order to better understand where you went wrong. Then you attempt to problem-solve and strategize a new way of tackling the situation that will lead to a better chance at success. Although this method is both informative and helpful, Peter Bregman of the Harvard Business Review says that empathy should be the first step in the cascade of response.
You need to be empathetic, not necessarily sympathetic toward yourself. Empathy and sympathy are oftentimes used interchangeable, but they have very different meanings when used correctly. To be empathetic means to identify thoughts or feelings. To be sympathetic frequently means to feel pity. So instead of beating yourself up and falling victim to negative self-talk, challenge yourself to sit with frustration, disappointment, discouragement, or perhaps anger or sadness. Whatever you are feeling, identify it and feel it.
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This may not sound like the most appealing approach. It can be easy to avoid negative feelings because it’s not pleasant to experience them. So naturally, this step is skipped and action is quickly initiated. However, if you ignore your reaction to failure, you are losing out on an opportunity not only to accept failure as an inevitable occurrence, but also to be acknowledging and forgiving of your failure. So show yourself compassion by being empathetic. Doing this will make you feel better and more likely to harness a new form of motivation that will make the analyzing and problem-solving phase of your response more productive.
I’m not saying you need to sit in a corner and dwell on your feelings. Instead, be reflective by writing down a few words that come to mind, or journal for twenty minutes. Meditation is also a powerful way to listen to yourself by being mindful and nonjudgmental. Failure stinks. But you don’t.
So, if at first you don’t succeed, try empathizing, and then trying again. You got this!