Many of us are not well equipped to deal with failure in our jobs. And a lot of that has to do with our mindset, how we look at ourselves and our place in the world.
Minor setbacks we have no problem with because they cannot harm what truly matters. And what matters is our ultimate success and progression to a position of authority and status.
Major setbacks and failures, however, are another matter. These we have trouble dealing with because we believe they may put our career at risk, that they will somehow derail our ambitions and consign us to a job and life that is threadbare.
Moreover, major failures rock our sense of our own capability. If we were really intelligent and competent at what we do, the reasoning goes, this kind of failure would not happen. It affects our confidence and self-esteem, along with our assertiveness and willingness to take risks.
Moving Past Failure
But this turns out to be exactly the wrong kind of attitude, according to psychologists. First of all, no matter how good you are at what you do, you are going to experience failures and adversity. And this is actually a good thing, because it is only through confronting adversity and making the effort to overcome it that we learn from it, that we acquire the skills and knowledge we need to move ahead in our career. Adversity, failure, is not a hindrance to our success; it is, in fact, necessary to achieve it.
Just as a muscle grows stronger from being stressed, so people grow stronger from crisis and stress as well. A muscle will not increase in size or strength if the weight being used during exercise is no heavier than what you normally lift in your daily life. You need to stress the muscle, use weight that is more than it is used to, if you want to make gains. And the same is true in our life and career. Adversity, coping with failure, is that extra weight.
Olympic champions report that dealing with extreme stress was essential to their performance. In fact, they said that they would not have won gold if not for the very demanding adversity they had to confront.
Examples of great failures leading to even greater success abound in history. For example, George Washington’s great victories in the Revolutionary War were preceded by a disastrous performance during the French and Indian War.
Thomas Edison’s successful inventions came about only after experiencing frequent failures.
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