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Bouncing Back from Failure

Taylor Leach

March 29, 2021

Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”

Failure is a part of life, but how we bounce back from it determines how successful we will become. Erika Hamden, a professor at the University of Arizona and a member of TED Fellow, a program designed for trailblazers who have shown unusual accomplishment and exceptional courage in their respective disciplines, shares her thoughts on how to move on and rebuild confidence after failure.

Use Your To-Do List

We all have items on our to-do list that we absolutely dread, but maybe we could use those tasks to help boost confidence. According to Hamden, people generally avoid big tasks because they are nervous they may fail. Instead of pushing them off to the side, she recommends tackling them first.

“I think a tiny bit about why [I’m nervous] and then I make myself do it,” Hamden says. “Confidence gets built when you try something new that’s a little scary, and you succeed and then you do it again and again. You have to into a process of being brave.”

Use your nerves to your advantage, Hamden notes. Typically, your reluctance of fear is a sign that you care.

Separate Your Values

Just because you fail at something does not mean you are a failure. This belief not only causes harm to your mental health, but it can also distract you from learning valuable lessons.

“I think the point of doing something is being able to ask afterwards: ‘What did you learn from it?’” Hamden says. “You learn more when things don’t go correctly.”

While you work is an important part of your lifestyle, it is not a reflection of your value as a person, Hamden explains. Take time to remind yourself of what your core values are and note which values are work related.

“You are valuable because you exist,” she says. “I think it’s really important to avoid those feelings of guilt or shame — feeling guilty about something is a way to make sure you never pick it up again.”

Develop Your Support Group

Whether you’re working alongside family, friends or employees, it’s important to know who you can turn to when you’re feeling down. Developing a “support group” to help you become your best self is a valuable asset, Hamden notes. Discover the people who are in your corner and take time to build them up as well.

“When you have a friendship where you can say, ‘I’m feeling really down, can I talk to you?’ or ‘I’m really thrilled and want to celebrate,' then your failures and successes don’t have to stop and start with you,” Hamden says. “If you feel like you don’t have people who are capable or willing to do that, seek them out and cultivate these relationships.

You can tell yourself, ‘I’m valuable’ every day, but if the people around you don’t value you, it’s going to be hard for you to believe that.”

Don’t Dwell

While it might seem like everyone knows you failed at something, that’s not the case Hamden notes.

“People are not paying as close attention as you think they are to your personal failures,” she says. Don’t dwell on your mistakes. Learn from them instead.

Avoid Burnout

Once you start to regain your confidence, monitor the amount of time you spend on projects. Hamden recommends setting strict limits and boundaries on the time spent on tasks to avoid the frustrating feeling of burnout. Feeling overworked lowers your motivation and raises tension.

Instead of overexerting yourself, Hamden suggests celebrating small victories and scheduling regular time off. “Getting time away on a regular basis is really important,” she notes.

Future Success is Possible

After failing at something, it’s easy to believe you will never succeed. But future success is still a very real possibility, Hamden explains.

“Choose to keep going,” she says. “It might feel like a failure today, but it is only going to stay a failure if you give up.

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