Bouncing Back from a Failure

Many of us are afraid to fail which can hinder our growth and even paralyze us in making decisions. But take into account these words of wisdom from psychologist, Dr. Ryan Dunn.

Everybody fails…. With things big or small, sooner or later, in private or (embarrassing) in public, with projects or relationships, we all fail. So the skill of bouncing back from a failure is one that is important to develop, to help us get back on track over and over and over….

A recent study in the journal Anxiety, Stress & Coping, found the most effective ways of bouncing back are positive reframing, acceptance, and humor. These helped people recover the fastest and still feel most satisfied at the end of the day.

Positive reframing is thinking about a situation differently – this may include deliberately thinking about what you can learn from the failure, estimating the tangible cost of the failure (“how does this actually change my life?”) rather than how you feel about it, and what positive things might come from the experience.

Acceptance is deliberately seeing the failure as a normal part of life, something to be gone through without being a reflection of your value, reminding yourself that everyone fails at things, and that you have failed before and will again as a normal part of life, but still survived.

Humor is deliberately finding any funny or ridiculous aspects of the situation. One of my favorite techniques is magnification, where I deliberately exaggerate my negative view of my failure until it becomes ridiculous and usually humorous, which helps me change perspective and feel better. For example, “Yes, that was terrible. Reporters are probably rushing to print headlines about it now, my wife will divorce me, and the mobs will be gathering soon to stone me. People will shun me in public, and Walmart will probably tell me I can’t come back.”

Using these techniques can greatly help deal with failure. Interestingly, coping techniques that made people feel worse were talking with others about it, denial, venting, behavioral disengagement (shutting down and not doing anything), and self-blame. Try and avoid these!

Remember, failure is a part of learning, growing, and developing new skills and abilities. The only people who don’t fail are already dead. So get out there and fail at something! Then bounce back well and keep growing.
Ryan Dunn, Ph.D.