Maybe it’s a test, maybe an assignment, or perhaps you didn’t get the job you wanted. Everyone has setbacks sometimes—and that’s OK. It’s all part of life. How interesting would life be if you were just constantly #winning? You need to deal with falling short from time to time, and learn to move on. Here are some tips on growing stronger from your failures.
1. Acknowledge it
Failure is going to suck, but that’s expected. You have to accept that it (whatever it is) won’t go your way all of the time. If you get a grade lower than expected, your first instinct might be to write off the course as too difficult, to think you might not be cut out for university, or that the professor isn’t grading you fairly. But before you fall into the depths of despair, remember that you’re not alone (just think about all of the other people who clicked on this article).
2. Set a time limit and let it out
Take a predetermined amount of time (10 minutes, one hour, one sad movie or until midnight) to process your thoughts and emotions—you’re allowed to be upset. This time limit is how long you can feel self-pity and existential crisis and then when the time is up, do something proactive that you’ve been procrastinating on. It could be a long, boring reading, resume updates, or trying a new recipe. This will remind yourself what you can accomplish!
Your support systems are also great if you need to vent. Talk to your family and friends and get some perspective. It’s better to deal with failure head-on then to distract yourself from it.
3. Find out why
After you’ve taken some time, reflect on what happened. Take responsibility for your actions, but also realize that setbacks in life can be out of your control. If a job or program has hundreds of applicants and can only accept half, it may have nothing to do with you personally. However, if it is your fault, knowing why will make you less likely to make the mistake again!
One of the most helpful things to do here, as painful as it sounds, is to seek out ways to improve. Maybe you have to re-organize your schedule. Maybe you have to change the way you study. Maybe you have to pay more attention to what’s happening in class. Maybe you might need to ask the professor or TA to clarify some things that you didn’t understood in lecture. Which brings us to…
4. Ask for help
Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re not capable of doing your work well. In fact, in university, it’s the people who ask for help who usually do the best. If you’ve failed or done poorly in a test or assignment, ask to meet with your instructor to get some insight into where you fell short. If you’re worried about how bad grades are going to affect your academic standing (if at all), set up an appointment with an advisor. You can also talk to a health care professional at the Student Health and Wellness Centre in Halifax or Health Services in Truro.
There are other places you can look to for help. If you need help with your written assignments, our libraries and Writing Centre can help. Or maybe you want to look into personal study skills coaching or a tutor.
5. Change how you think about failure
We’re told failing is bad. We’re told to avoid it at all costs. But what we should be told is to change our perspective about it. There’s an opportunity with every setback to take three steps forward. Learn from each failure to ensure that the next time you do fail, it’s in a new way and you learn something new.
(Using your strengths is a great way to approach failure and new opportunities. Take the StrengthsQuest as part of the Stay on Track program.)
You can also ask yourself: what’s the absolutely worst thing that could happen? If messing up one assignment is really going to be the worst thing that’s ever happened to you, that’s a pretty good life. If it’s not, overthinking it will just make it harder to move on and learn something.
When Tiger gets knocked down, he gets up again.