How to Fail (Part 2): The Recovery

I just came out of a period of intense de-motivation. You know what I'm talking about, that feeling like you would rather nap than do anything at all related to your work. For me it's always accompanied by a slow and steady lack of confidence, the sense that I am actually crap, and the lack of doing anything about it only confirms the feeling. When this feeling lasts for more than a few days, it's miserable, but when it lasts for weeks, and has a very real impact on your career, it feels like failure. 

There are lots of ways to fail, you could do something quick and catastrophic (like crashing your car), or simple and slow that didn't quite turn out the way you thought (like crocheting a hat that turns out to be too small), or by doing nothing at all (like not responding to an invitation to a concert with friends and regretting it). All of us fail, and according to popular business literature and my own blog, we should being doing more failing. Failing is healthy, it builds resilience, and gets us to try new things, without which we would never learn and grow. 

But that doesn't take away the sting or the misery when it happens. So when you fail, whether it's catastrophic, slow, or by doing nothing at all, how do you bounce back? How did I bounce back? 

  1. Forgive yourself and agree to let it go. Most of the negative impact of failure is caused not so much by others' feedback on our failure (though that is hard to deal with), but by the pressure we put on ourselves when we don't live up to our own expectations. Most of us are incredibly hard on ourselves, and are not easy to let up when we don't meet our own expectations. But that's the first step to bouncing back and moving forward. So sing the Frozen theme out loud and let it go. Forgive yourself. 
  2. Do something you enjoy. Re-engage your energy by doing something that makes you happy. It could be simple, like spending time with friends or going for a hike, or something bigger, like starting a project that you've always wanted to. The key is to take the pressure off of succeeding and to instead just focus on enjoyment and being present in doing something you love. 
  3. Do something you're good at. Similarly, spending a bit of time doing something you are already good at or usually good at can remind you of your strengths and give you some positive feeling to build off of as you recover from your failure. This will generate energy that you'll tap into as you try other new things and tackle different challenges and get back on your proverbial horse. 
  4. Find inspiration. Think about your values, what's important to you? What is your purpose? What impact do you want to have in the world or in your community? Tapping into what inspires you can help you move forward with a bit of a spring in your step. 
  5. Tune in to your role models. Connect with people who inspire you as well as the ideas that you find inspiring. Admitting your failures to those who you admire can often be surprising, you're likely to hear stories of the ways in which they failed, and get some encouragement for the challenges that you are facing. If you don't have one yet, find yourself a mentor by connecting with people you admire and respect and asking for some time with them to gain inspiration. 

Failing at anything, large or small, sucks. But that feeling is temporary, and you can bounce back more readily the more you practice. 

Need help bouncing back? You can write to me