Finding Success after Failure

Failing stinks.  Not only does it mean that we did not accomplish something we worked hard towards, but it can make us feel disappointed, discouraged, or just downright lousy.  Friends and family may provide some words of support and encouragement, but rarely do they help us escape the feelings that come with a lack of achievement.  Sometimes a failure is something we can easily recover from, but other times those feelings linger and impact our functioning.  How do we overcome these obstacles?  It is as simple as one word: Resilience.

Resilience is defined as the ability to recover quickly from setbacks and challenges.  Seems simple, right?  Anyone who has ever had to fight their way back from significant adversity knows that the road to resilience is full of stress and doubt.  Resilience is one of the most difficult (and most valuable) reservoirs of strength that we can tap into to promote psychological growth and wellness.  Regardless of the hardship, it is possible to bounce back from hard times using the four-step RASE method.

R – Recognize

Learning from failure means that we must recognize what went wrong.  This requires a long, hard look and examination of what we did, what worked, and what did not work.  It is imperative that we are honest with ourselves in this step.  What could have been done differently?  What might have changed?  It may be helpful to enlist the help of an honest, but kind, friend or family member to help examine the situation from a place of objectivity.  The importance here is to identify exactly what occurred in a specific manner to identify variables that could be altered in the future that yield different results.

A – Accept

Mistakes do not have to be setbacks.  In fact, if you think about it, we make a lot of mistakes each day.  Perhaps you attempted a new recipe and it did not taste as delicious as you had hoped.  Maybe you thought you only had two pages of homework, but in actuality had three pages to complete.  If a shipment had come in yesterday as planned, you may have serviced your customers more efficiently.  Small failures may contribute to an unpleasant experience.  Whether they are preventable or unavoidable, the failure is not you.  Let me repeat that.  You are not a failure.  Mistakes happen.  Uncertainties abound.  Accepting that a failure occurred, but not allowing that to define you as a person, is a pivotal component to resilience.

S – Strategize

Strategy is not simply about making another attempt after failure.  It is about thinking of all the possible solutions and consciously deciding which might maximize benefit while minimizing risk.  Think of this as if you were navigating around a traffic jam.  You had plans to make it home nice and early tonight, but as you are leaving work, your phone alerts you that your route is shut down and traffic is impassable.  Without effort, you consider alternative routes and make a decision.  If you set out on your new path and you find that you are not reaching your destination, what other choices might you make?  What other roads cross your path that could help you get home with enough time to hit the gym, make dinner, or spend some quality time with the kids before bed?  Make a plan for success.  Write it down.  Draw it out.  Use flow charts, index cards, journals…whatever it takes.  Having a plan and identifying potential obstacles will not only help prepare you for success, but will help you manage stress and maintain a positive outlook throughout the process.  

E – Execute

When you are ready to execute your strategy, you will know.  You will feel it.  It is that feeling of empowerment that provided the confidence needed for previous attempts.  Remember, plans are not fact-based.  They can’t be.  They haven’t happened yet.  They are educated guesses that can be altered when an obstacle is encountered.  You will find motivation and momentum in executing your plan.  It isn’t always easy.  In times when it seems hardest, thinking back to all the times you have been successful in the past can help give you the push you need.  One of the most vital parts of this step is to recognize and celebrate success, no matter how small.  Climbing a mountain doesn’t happen in five minutes.  You have to work slowly and keep going.  You will suddenly realize there is more hard work behind you than ahead of you.   But once you have reached the summit, the view is phenomenal.