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How to Bounce Back from Failure

I have yet to meet the person who enjoys failure. I’ve also never met a successful person who hasn’t experienced a major failure at least once in their life. Failure is a necessary part of life and an important ingredient for learning and growth. It’s also a good sign you’re taking healthy risk and getting out of your comfort zone.

However, while failure may be inevitable, it doesn’t have to be fatal. How you process failure is crucial. It’s tempting to respond to failure by withdrawing into your comfort zone and giving up.

Failure isn't fatal, but failure to change might be. ~Coach John Wooden

Unfortunately, this is where most people live – to their own detriment. Or, you can choose to bounce back, learn from your mistakes and grow as a result. We refer to this ability to bounce back as resiliency, and strong leaders are resilient. The good news is resiliency is a learned behavior developed through practice.

Start with 100% Responsibility

When you fail, own it. The more time you waste blaming others or making excuses, the longer you’ll be stuck. Every time you blame someone else or your circumstances you’re saying you’re powerless to do anything about it. This is the definition of learned helplessness. Resilient individuals, on the other hand, are quick to take 100% Responsibility for what happened and what they’re going to do about it.

Do an Honest Self-Assessment

Take time to process what happened. What would you do differently? This doesn’t mean beating yourself up or ruminating on your mistakes. It does mean taking time to ask yourself tough questions to ensure you’re growing through the experience.

Make Amends When Appropriate

Radical ownership means apologizing to those you’ve harmed or let down. Learning to apologize also frees you from the temptation of hiding your mistakes or making excuses.

Stay Positive and Apply What You Learned

Having a positive attitude through failure doesn’t mean putting on rose-colored glasses and ignoring what happened. It does mean recognizing that failure isn’t permanent and owning the fact you get to decide what happens next. Perspective is everything. Embrace change – and the fact that you’re a work in progress like the rest of us. Look at failure as an opportunity to learn and grow and be quick to apply what you learned. John Wooden said it best, "Failure isn't fatal, but failure to change might be."


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