5 Ways to Transform Painful Failures Into a Soaring Success

Whether you’ve failed an exam or flubbed a college presentation, failure is an inevitable part of life. Check out our 5 suggestions on how you can bounce back here.

Updated 26 Jul 2019

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Have you experienced the heartbreak of working hard for an exam, only to be disappointed by your results? Or, if you’re a sports or running enthusiast, spent months training for an upcoming run, only to be let down on the day of your race by your poor performance?

Failure could mean different things to different people. For some, failure could mean not scoring the perfect GPA for the semester. To others, it could mean losing to your friends in a friendly game of futsal, not being able to lose weight or failing to get an internship in the company of your choice.

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, failure and disappointment skirts on the horizon. It could be due to our wrongdoing, such as failing to prepare for an exam, or something else that’s harder to control, such as nerves or exam anxiety that negatively affects our performance.

While nobody is immune to failure, that’s no reason for you to have a bleak outlook on life! Here are 5 suggestions on how you can cope with it.

#1. Aim for progress, not perfection

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In our quest for perfection, any achievement that falls below our expectation is deemed a failure. This could mean berating ourselves for not getting a string of A’s or the perfect GPA.

However, instead of chasing perfection, striving for progress may be a better option as the goal is to be the best of your abilities, as opposed to meeting society’s unrealistic standards.

For example, if you’re a student who strives for progress, increasing your GPA from a 2.5 to a 3.0 will make you feel ecstatic over your achievement as you can see improvements from your previous performance. Meanwhile, a student who strives for perfection may berate themselves for not doing better and is constantly putting themselves under stress to perform better.

At the same time, it’s also important to define what success and failure mean to you. Did you really “fail” if your grades are still above average or if you see gradual improvements in your performance? Sometimes, it’s about managing your expectations and dropping your quest for perfection. After all, you have only failed if you have given up, goes the old proverb.

#2. Engage in some self-reflection

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Have you flunked a paper or an exam? Or scored poorly for an assignment? If you have, what did you learn from the experience?

Get to the root of the problem by looking within. Could your failure be attributed to your lack of initiative to study, or your tendency to wait until the last minute to complete your assignments? Perhaps cramming a year's worth of materials a week before your final exam screams “insanity!”. So, why do it?

Either way, you shouldn’t label the experience as a failure if you’ve gained a valuable lesson from it.

Self-reflection allows you to identify what you did wrong, allowing you to take measured steps to improve yourself. After all, we can learn from our mistakes only if we can acknowledge that we’ve done something wrong.

#3. Get the support you need

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If you’ve just made an epic failure and feel like you need to wallow in misery and hide in the hole that is your room, here’s an alternative solution instead.

Consider meeting your close circle of friends or family members for some emotional support. Socialising may be the last thing on your mind in the aftermath of your “failure”, but being around loved ones amidst laughter can do wonders for the wounded soul.

This is also backed by research which suggests social support may help you bounce back from stressful events.

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#4. Allow yourself to let go

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We’ve all been there — whether it was failing an exam, messing up a presentation or performing poorly in an athletic performance, we may find ourselves replaying the painful scene over and over again in our heads, making our self-worth plummet further below and feeling like a complete failure afterwards.

However, it’s worth remembering that failing in one aspect of your life, such as your academic pursuits, doesn’t render you a failure as an individual. Each of us has different strengths and weaknesses and may excel in other areas such as sports and music.

Dwelling on your failures won’t change what has happened. Additionally, research suggests that rumination can cause numerous mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.

Instead, take proactive measures to ensure that you’ll do better next time and let go of unattainable goals. Learning acceptance and how to move forward will be beneficial.

#5. Failure can be the best teacher

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Anyone who has experienced failure would know the pain or embarrassment associated with it. However, many of life’s toughs lessons come from adversity.

In fact, failure is one of the biggest growing experiences you can have and can act as the fuel that propels you to work harder to achieve your goals. It can also teach you to be resilient in life, which is a crucial life skill that we need to have to survive and thrive.

Consider Harry Potter novelist JK Rowling who received numerous rejections for her manuscript on the young wizard before it was finally published by Bloomsbury. From a single parent surviving on welfare, Rowling eventually went on to sell millions of books and was even dubbed the world’s richest author in 2017.

Her story is one of perseverance, so keep your chin up! We’re bound to receive objections or be belittled by others, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop trying to achieve our life goals.

Failure may be inevitable, but what matters is how you deal with it. It may be a tough pill to swallow, but it is part of life’s learning process. So whether you’ve failed once, or twice, or even a hundred of times, it probably won’t be your last time.

So keep your head up and swim against the tide!

Is it the blues, or is what you’re feeling something more serious? Find out in our article about depression.

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    Yasmin Ahmad Kamil

    Yasmin Ahmad Kamil

    Writer and editor. When she's not juggling work, Yasmin enjoys hiking and basking in nature's glory.