Resilience and How We React to Failure

by: Deborah Jones

Two of the motherhood statements in the book Adapt, Why Success Always Starts WithFailure by Tim Harford, columnist for Financial Times, are: “Few of our own failures are fatal,” and success comes through rapidly fixing our mistakes rather than getting things right first time.” 

Failure is a normal part of life. A person who has never failed is also a person who has not succeeded in anything in life. No one who has walked on this earth has not failed at least once in their life. Failure and setbacks could happen that we can’t do anything about, but we can sure do something with how we react to them. Failure is actually the opportunity to make things better the next time around, but it all depends on how we react to it and how
resilient  we are since this are what will affect our attainment of success and the way we live our life. 

The two general ways people react to failure:

1.    Looking at failure as a commentary to their abilities and of them as a person

When faced with rejection or failure some people take it as a personal affront and a judgment on their competence and capabilities, thus triggering low self-esteem. Of course, it’s a normal reaction to feel disheartened when one fails, but what should not be considered as healthy is to consider it as reflection of one’s person and his/her potentials. This is a disastrous thought that will negatively affect a person’s attitude towards other attempts or pursuits in the future. This could eventually lead to abandoning all efforts to try again and could even lead to under performance, lower productivity and even depression.  

2.    Looking at failure as a challenge

A healthy reaction to failure is to consider it as just one of the stumbling blocks or challenges that needs to be overcome. It is looking at failure as an isolated case or a specific instance and not because one is not good enough. People who look at failure as a challenge are those that are able to bounce back and keep moving forward to attain success in the future.

Resilience in the face of failure

The second attitude to failure is the attitude of resilient people.  Resilience is also sometimes referred to as  mental toughness or mental fortitude. It is the ability to cope with failure, problems and disappointments. It is an inner strength that allows an individual to stay calm and cool in the face of adversity and bounce back and recover fast from a fall. Even resilient people suffer disappointment in the face of failure. What sets them apart is their ability to face the challenge head on, overcome the obstacle and keep moving on and emerge from it stronger.

For some, this is an inborn trait, but for those who were not born with it, the good news is, it can be developed or learned. There are resilience training either to enhance a person’s inborn resilience or to develop it from scratch. These training help a person to be mentally tough, maintain their focus and conviction to pursue their goals, to have the strength to resist the impetus to give up in the face of a challenge or failure and to come out of it tougher and stronger than before.  
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