“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison
We all desire to be successful in life. Our achievements help to define our sense of being successful, but so do our failures. Failures, when added up, can hinder or facilitate our response to strive for better outcomes. Typically when one is faced with a situation whereby they do not know how to act, they engage in thinking of reasons about why they can’t do it rather than what they can do. This leads to the brain steering its main focus from problem-solving to problem-excusing.
To illustrate, consider two individuals, Tom and Kelly; both suffer from financial constraints due to business. Tom thinks that he cannot achieve his dream and begins falling into the trap of using ‘’if-only’’ which leads his mind to come up with more excuses. Kelly does the opposite and strives to find solutions. These two scenarios offer two different perspectives in how the same problem can be dealt differently.
Research has demonstrated that words have a profound effect on the way we think for example; brand-name drugs are more likely to be prescribed than other cheaper, non-brand name drugs due to the belief that brand-name drugs are superior to non-branded. We can use this to our advantage by changing the words we use to describe failure.
There many different kinds of failures, each with their own respective requirements, traits and specific ways of handling. The failures that will be covered are failures which one cannot prevent (being cheated on, getting fired without notice), and failures out of impatience (Progress is too slow).
Failures that one could not prevent are some of the most negative experienced in life. According to the stoics, a branch in philosophy, the first step in preventing negative experiences with these kinds of failures is to accept what cannot be changed. This does not mean one should never attempt to improve themselves, it simply means that there are aspects which one may not necessarily have any control over. One way how one can accept these changes is to process our negative feelings about such situations and to find the root cause of it. In a study done on cancer survivors, positive emotions and effective emotional regulation about their situation were linked to a higher level of self-efficacy (the individual’s judgement of the extent that they are capable of achieving their goals), and hence, growth after the traumatic experience.
Impatience can also serve as another source for failure. This may be due to the slow progress of a task and hence, feeling frustrated that you haven’t met that deadline. A solution to this is not always to stick to deadlines. Generally, rough estimates are what work best to not let deadlines dictate your life. Remind yourself that for each tiny win you are closer to your goals.
Overall, failure can be a pain to deal with but with proper management, one can learn from their failure and be more successful.
Epictetus. (135 A.C.E). The Enchiridion. Retrieved 05 20, 2019, from The internet Classics Archive: http://classics.mit.edu/Epictetus/epicench.html
Meadows, M. (2017). From failure to success: Everday habits and exercises to build mental resilience and turn failures into successes. Meadows Publishing.
Steinman, M. A., Chen, M.-M., & Landfeld, C. S. (2007). What’s in a Name? Use of Brand versus Generic Drug Names in united states outpatient practice. Journal of general internal medicine. , 645-648.
Yu, Y., Peng, L., Tang, T., Chen, L., Li, M., & Wang, T. (2014). Effects of emotion regulation and general self-efficacy on posttraumatic growth in Chinese cancer survivors: assessing the mediating effect of positive affect. Psychooncology , 473-478.
Picture is taken from https://fineartamerica.com/featured/bow-down-and-rise-up-carlos-flores.html. Artist name: Carlos Flores.
Neville Bonaci is a student of psychology currently in his second year in a bachelor’s course. He is also working as a childminder with Willingness. Neville aspires to be both a clinical psychologist and an academic.