Greetings fellow graduate students,
I hope this blog post finds you well.
Failure seems like a very scary word. For some, it can occur in personal, professional, social, and psychological life domains. For others, the fear of failure forces them to actively avoid activities that make them feel slightly uncomfortable.
The understanding of failure differs from person to person. However, since we have normalized a mentality to be failure-aversive as a society, we have also associated negative thoughts and feelings to failure. But, an orientation towards learning from failure should be normalized because failure is an inevitable consequence of taking risks, trying new things and accepting new responsibilities. Failure is also an opportunity for each person to navigate towards significant, positive personal development.
Although we are very busy in our lives, it is perfectly fine in moments of failure to take the time we need to reflect upon our lives and address some of our areas of improvement. These moments are not obstacles to continuing our lives but opportunities to enhance how we live.
There are many articles available online that describe failure. In this blog post, however, I will focus on describing some of the strategies you can use to deal with failure.
In moments of failure, remind yourself that (1) failure is a normal feature of life, and (2) you view failure as an opportunity for personal and professional development.
This strategy can be useful when we ruminate about the negative consequences of our failure instead of seeing the silver-lining or having a growth orientation towards the failure. By reminding ourselves continuously that failure is a normal feature of our life and an opportunity for bettering ourselves, we can unshackle ourselves from fixating on the negative aspects of the failure and appreciating the positive aspects.
2. Seek Social Support
Words cannot emphasize how essential it is for us to have a support system that is authentic, diverse, and accessible. The graduate student learning journey can be very isolating and disengaging. A support system is vital for well-being when it comes to navigating through the lonesome graduate learning environment, and for dealing with failures in our lives. For example, having an open conversation with a trusted individual from your support system about your circumstances, thoughts, and ideas can provide the serenity and respite you need to navigate through moments of failure.
In moments of failure, you need to be patient and persistent. You should internalize the idea that, although it will take some time and effort, you will recover from failure, eventually. Another strategy you can use in moments of failure is to reflect and list the factors caused you to experience failure. Some of the questions you can ask are:
- What were the factors that caused this failure?
- How could I have avoided the situation or reduced its consequences?
- What is about this failure that affected me the most? Which of my values and beliefs were triggered when I failed?
- Why was the failure unexpected or surprising?
- What will I do in the future to avoid similar setbacks?
- What will I do in the future to deal with failure in more healthy ways?
Asking these questions can take some time. You should revisit them as time passes, and as you recover from the effects of failure. By the end of your experience, you will be better equipped to deal with any failure or setback that may arise in the future.
4. Process over Outcome
The nature of our busy lives distracts us from focusing on the process of learning. Instead, we have a propensity to fixate on the outcome, for example, one of our papers being accepted into a journal. Although it is healthy to feel satisfied and motivated with a positive outcome, I believe that fixating on the outcome of an activity does not provide genuine and everlasting satisfaction and motivation.
Outcomes can be positive or negative. Sometimes when we put in a lot of effort, we get a positive outcome. Other times, when we put in a lot of effort, we get a negative outcome. In the latter situation, those who fixate on the outcome may experience a drastic decrease in their self-confidence and motivation. However, for those who associate their satisfaction and motivation to learning, a negative outcome is merely an opportunity for further growth.
It can be very difficult to simply adopt a propensity towards learning. These are some strategies I use to emphasize processes over outcomes.
- Remind yourself that you love to learn (before, during, and after each activity)
- Immerse yourself in the activity
- Remove all distractions when you are working
- In your work, remind yourself that you are enjoying this experience
- Use a portfolio or journal to track your self-development
- Have frequent walking and hydration trips
- Ensure your diet is adequately nutritious