5 Effective Ways To Cope With Failure

Jamie Birt

Updated February 22, 2022

Published December 12, 2019

Jamie Birt is a career coach with 5+ years of experience helping job seekers navigate the job search through one-to-one coaching, webinars and events. She’s motivated by the mission to help people find fulfillment and belonging in their careers.

Learning effective ways to cope with failure can help you increase your willingness to take risks and push beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone. This, in turn, can help create powerful opportunities for learning and professional success. In this article, we discuss the many benefits that can be associated with failure and how you can learn to cope with failures in the workplace.

What is failure?

Failure is the condition of not meeting a goal or intended outcome. While it can be viewed as the opposite of success, failures in the workplace present the greatest opportunities for employee growth. The best leaders encourage failure and out-of-the-box thinking because of the innovation and learning that comes from it. 

Benefits of failure

While no one enjoys failing, there actually are several very powerful benefits associated with failing, which makes it all the more important to learn to cope with failure. 

  • Failures can make you smarter. Research shows that your brain actually gets bigger when it’s compiling information about an experience. When you fail, your brain retains the new pathways by taking new information and compiling the takeaways from the trial and error. In other words, making mistakes fundamentally alters the brain and makes it more mature.

  • Failing means you’re taking risks. If you are successful in everything you do, you probably aren’t pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone. By leaning into risks and accepting the possibility of failure, you may find that you identify more creative solutions or greater successes.

  • Failing provides opportunities for rapid growth. Rapid growth is possible when you learn from the insights of others, test what you think might work and learn from what doesn’t.

Related: How To Overcome Fear of Failure

How to cope with failure

Learning to cope with failure can give you an edge professionally, make you a stronger leader and more dynamic team player in the future. Here are some basic steps for coping with failure effectively: 

  1. Separate failure from your identity.

  2. Learn from the failure.

  3. Find a new perspective.

  4. Get support from others.

  5. Move forward.

1. Separate failure from your identity

Remember that a setback or failure isn’t a reflection of who you are as an individual. By understanding that failure is just part of the process and not part of your identity, you can maintain the confidence to continue pursuing your goal.

2. Learn from the failure

See your failure as constructive criticism. Identify why the failure occurred and whether it was beyond your control. After you have gathered all the facts, ask yourself what you can learn from the experience and what changes you could make to achieve a different result next time. 

3. Find a new perspective

Start by understanding that failure is part of the learning process. Shift your perspective away from negative thoughts and focus on positive associations. For example, tell yourself that your failure brings you one step closer to reaching your goal. Most successful people will readily tell you that failure was a critical part of their path to success.

4. Get support from others

Talking to someone close to you is a great way to manage the many emotions that can accompany a failure. Getting support will help you accept the failure, gain perspective and find encouragement to try again. 

Look for ways to learn from others who are where you want to be. Read books about setbacks business professionals have overcome and how they managed those low points. Use their stories as a way to garner enthusiasm or motivation to move beyond your failure.

Related: What is a Mentor?

5. Move forward

While it’s important to fully process what happened and gather any key takeaways, it’s also important to accept it and move forward. Acceptance means you understand that you encountered an obstacle or brief setback and now need to find a solution to resolve the problem. 

Sit down and make a plan for how you can apply what you learned and move forward. Understand that challenge, growth and even failure are almost always required to achieve a goal.

Related: 10 Tips for Being More Goal-Oriented at Work

Tips for embracing failure 

Here are a few bonus tips to help you better cope with professional failures:

  • Celebrate failures. If your team works hard, pushes beyond their comfort zone and fails anyway, celebrate the failure. Create a culture where you celebrate risk-taking, even if it doesn’t result in success.

  • Lean into discomfort. If you or a member of your team has a new idea, start by taking small steps to lean into the discomfort and uncertainty. For example, you could test interest in a product or service before risking enormous amounts of time and money. This allows you to fail quickly at a low cost if the market isn’t interested.

  • Share your failures. The easiest way to encourage a team to embrace risk is to share stories of your own failures and what you learned from them.

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