The greatest stories of all time didn’t start and end with ‘and they lived happily ever after’. It’s true for us too. Our life’s story is made great by how we managed to pull ourselves up.
Talking about failures is not easy especially if it’s personal. It’s harder to talk about if you’ve not managed to rise above it. This is a topic that hits very close to home because I’ve had my share of failures to fill out an entire sheet of paper. Perhaps even more.
Whatever type of failure you go through, one thing is for certain–your initial feeling is that of helplessness and “oh sh*t” moments. There might have been times when you ended up just lying on your bed and just staring into open space and not being productive at all. I get it. I’ve been there more than once. You then experience a lul wherein you just don’t feel like doing anything. It’s normal. Give yourself that time. But do not dwell on that feeling for too long. You need to get yourself out of that rut and be better than yesterday.
Here in Asian Efficiency, we’ve helped over 13,000 people become productive but that didn’t happen overnight. It took us years to get to where we are and we’ve had our share of failures too. Over the years, we’ve learned, as a team, some strategies that you can also use to bounce back from failure. These are also strategies that we have personally used, not just in Asian Efficiency but also in our personal lives.
What are failures?
You have set out to do something and you ended up not reaching it is the simplest way to describe what a failure is. My first BIG failure was setting out a goal to earn my degree in 4 years but instead, it took me 5.5 years. It might not mean a lot at first glance but it meant losing my scholarship. I was a straight-A student and was part of my university’s honor roll and in just one semester, I just decided to drop my system administration class. I don’t even remember why but I do remember the feeling of regret that followed and living through the consequences after. I was 18 and already feeling like a total failure–that nothing could top that. How wrong I was.
We all have our idea of success. We have it ingrained in our brains since we were young. It starts when our parents would tell us what they would like us to be when we grow up. Then when we’re older, our idea of success is reaching our dreams. What we lacked is the idea of failure because it’s something that we don’t want to talk about.
“Failure is not an option.” We hear this quite a lot. It might not be an option for you and me, but it doesn’t mean that it’s never going to happen. It has happened to very successful people like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, JK Rowling, Walt Disney, and so many more. When you think about those people I have just mentioned, you don’t think about their failures because their success is so much bigger than their failures. That there is your true option–to be bigger than your failure.
Here are 3 simple strategies on how you can bounce back from failure
1. Do not let your failure define who you are
Simply put, you are not your failure. Do not dwell or beat yourself up when you fail. It happens even to the best of us. Instead of telling yourself “If only I did this”, tell yourself “Next time, here’s what I’m going to do.” The difference between the two phrases is worlds apart. One focuses on the failure while the other focuses on opportunities for growth.
When you let your failure get the best of you, this is when you feel pathetic that you are not capable of succeeding. It paralyzes you into doing nothing. So you lost a promotion to someone else. Does that mean that you shouldn’t aim for that next promotion? Of course not. It should mean that there are some things that you still need to work on or areas for improvement. You weren’t able to sign on a client? Ok. Work on the next one and see what you can improve on.
Just because you failed once doesn’t mean that you will fail the next time. Failure teaches us that there is a way for us to improve.
2. Make changes to your environment
When you make changes to your environment, the people you hang out with, the places you go, the music you listen to, helps rewire your brain. It can help you see things in a different light.
Take time to work outside your usual working environment. Do your thinking time in a park or work from a coffee shop or public library. Make that change.
Talk to people who might have experienced the same failure as you. Ask them how they managed to turn things around and if they are not there yet, figure it out together.
Did you go through a bad break up (or even an okay one)? Go to a new place to eat. Don’t go back to the usual places or else you’re just going to mope.
3. Strive to be happy
Happy people are productive people. This is arguably one of Thanh’s favorite phrases because it’s true. The happier you are the more productive you’ll be.
You might think that it’s impossible to be happy after failing at something. It is impossible if you manage to forget the things that make you happy.
Let’s start with this question: what makes you happy?
Whatever those are will be one of the reasons why you will bounce back from failure. More than a decade ago, my friends and I decided to build our own BPO. Unfortunately, our investors backed out during our 2nd year and we had to close it down. I was in a rut for two months. I would have to admit that I didn’t handle it well. I isolated myself from the people who mattered most. When I finally got tired feeling pathetic, I reached out to my friends. They were my happiness (still are). Finding my happiness brought me to where I am right now.
Things happen for a reason. That reason is growth. Each failure is a chance for growth. Embrace it and bounce back.
Write down what makes you happy and put it somewhere that you can see every single day. Remember, when you’re happy you are productive.