How To Recover From Failure
The need to succeed—to attain wealth, happiness, and a certain status in the eyes of friends, family, and colleagues—is a primal urge that you will nurture throughout your life. As well you should, because it is good to have goals, ambitions, and purposes to test yourself by.
Still, it is harder to live without success today than it has been at any time in history. We have all become so interconnected, so much more aware of what goes on in each other’s lives that we are constantly, though silently, comparing fortunes. This has created one of the great pathologies of our time. The combination of celebrity culture and the virtual medium has made it so that everyone is able to immerse themselves in the glow of celebrity by portraying an image of eternal happiness, joy, and achievement.
You should not be deceived by such images. Most people are not as happy and fulfilled and successful as they seem. Most people must endure many failures—great and small—before they get anywhere near a sustainable success. If you are lured into thinking that everyone around you—your peers and colleagues—is advancing while you are somehow sitting still, you will become driven not by a healthy sense of self-worth, but by envy and jealousy. Harboring such feelings will divert your focus to what others are doing instead of keeping it on what you want to do.
Suffering a setback of any kind is painful. But hating the successes of others is no way to respond to it. Your best course of action is to stay constant and true to your own abilities and aspirations. Failure will no doubt cause you to doubt yourself for a time. You may even get the feeling that you have nothing of value to add to your profession, and that people do not take you seriously because they believe your work and your mind are inferior. It is perfectly natural to think in this way if you were unable to bring to fruition a project that you put much time and effort into.
One of things that you absolutely must keep in mind is that there is usually more than one path to the same end. It is much too easy to get hung up on pushing on the same doors when trying to make a breakthrough. In my experience, the best way to recover from a failure is to look for other ways to achieve the goal you have in mind. You should also re-evaluate the goal itself. Perhaps on reflection you will discover that it is not worth attaining at all—that is to say, it is not something that will bring the kind of satisfaction you’re looking for.
The most important step in recovering from failure is to dis-associate yourself from all attempts by others to compare your efforts to those of people they know. Of course, you should always be willing to listen and learn from the experience of other people. But you should also ensure that what they have to teach you is relevant to your actual aims and circumstances. People, in general, don’t see you as you are; they see you as they are. Most individuals don’t have the presence of mind and imagination to enter into your perspective and judge matters from it. That is why you should be very careful about taking advice in the wake of a failure. It could make you feel even worse about your situation and take you in directions that you do not wish to go.
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About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.