Failure: it happens to everyone, particularly in the business world. The ins and outs of moving a company forward inevitably carry a certain level of risk, and regardless of whether you’re a new entrepreneur or longtime CEO, you’ll find that setbacks are bound to arise. Most of the time, these issues are outside of your control; what defines you as a leader is the way that you respond to failure.
The first part of dealing with failure is recognizing the damage it can cause. This may seem counterproductive; and we certainly don’t want to waste time wallowing in self-pity, but knowing how it affects us can make us more emotionally prepared to surmount it.
Failure can make us more likely to see future tasks as impossible and reduce our motivation; this is rooted in universal psychology. It even affects animals; dogs working in drug or explosive detection will become less competent over time if they continually fail to find anything; it is for this reason that their handlers will occasionally give them false positives to sniff out to promote their motivation. It’s a sort of vicious cycle; failure can lead to problems with confidence, reducing our ability to make strong decisions and unconsciously causing future failure.
How can we get ourselves out of this cycle? It starts with the recognition that some aspects of work and life are simply outside of your control.
That said, it’s unreasonable to think that failure shouldn’t affect you. Feeling unhappy with a lost business opportunity is natural, but it’s up to you to realize that your emotions do not control you and that failure should not erode your determination. If you’re still down about it, try writing down a list of positive qualities about yourself. It may sound almost childishly simple, but if you recognize your own capacity to move on and overcome adversity, it can create a bulwark against loss of self-esteem.
So, now that you’ve start to counteract the negative psychological effects of failure, it’s time to start moving forward. Think about your next project and about what you can do to make it turn out well. There’s always more to be done; and the best way to recover in business is by pursuing other opportunities and projects with the mindset that you will constantly improve as a worker and an individual.
When moving on from a failure, try rethinking your approach. Many setbacks are caused by inadequate planning and logistics; both things within your realm of control. Brainstorm a wide variety of ideas and don’t censor yourself; even the most outlandish of ideas can have some merit in the long run.
Really, the worst thing you can do here is stick to an old approach. Sinking into an unproductive business routine will compound an earlier failure and make it more difficult to pick yourself back up and advance.
Switching up your approach may involve some risk, which you can minimize by unpacking everything you afford to lose and comparing it to everything your could possibly gain. Counter the emotional drain of failure with unrelenting logic and you’ll find that you can methodically work past even the worst of problems.
Yes, recovering from failure will inevitably be difficult, but becoming a defeatist can profoundly affect you psychologically. Learn to recognize your emotions upon encountering failure and take it as an opportunity to reassess your work ethic and ultimately improve as a result of the experience. This perseverance will serve you well in and out of the office.