Taking on college studies is a big change from high school or the working world, and — like any major transition into a new area — that means it’s full of opportunities to stumble and fail.
Success might always look the same, but there are so many different ways to fail.
Whether you fail a test, a whole class, or you struggle with a personal failure in a relationship or passion project, it stings. Failure is painful, but learning how to cope with bumps in the road — both little potholes and big detours — will help you learn from your mistakes and come out stronger for them.
Tips On How To Deal With Failure
Though you might be tempted to beat yourself up when you don’t reach your goals, psychologists have found that there are three positive ways to deal with failure: humor, reframing and acceptance.
For small stumbles, humor may be easy — just make a joke, laugh at yourself and you’ll feel better soon. It’s harder to laugh at major, heartbreaking problems, though, you may want to try to reframe what happened.
Instead of blaming yourself, try to observe the situation from a different point of view and look for the good in an otherwise negative situation.
Acceptance may be the most difficult, but it’s a very effective way to move on from your mistakes. To accept your failure, try to think about it in less personal terms and instead analyze what went wrong so you can avoid repeating the same mistake in the future.
Resources for Emotional Support
If you’re really struggling to get past a particularly painful event, remember that you don’t have to go at it alone. Talk about your feelings with a trusted friend or family member to get advice — or just a shoulder to cry on.
If you need additional help, consider talking to a therapist or social worker to help you sort out your strong feelings and come up with an action plan to get back on your feet again.
Visiting the student health services at your college can point you in the right direction if you’re not sure where to start.
Why Failure Isn’t Always Bad
Once you get past the emotional landmines involved in failing something, you’ll eventually be able to learn from your errors. It may take some time before you can look back and analyze what went wrong without dredging up strong feelings, but it’s important to do so at some point.
Try these steps to learn from any failure, large or small:
Figure out what went wrong. Retrace your steps to figure out where the problems began. You may have to untangle many complications to get back to the root cause.
Name your failing. Was it a strategy issue, a lack of information or some other technical error that can be easily fixed? Or was your failure one of character? Perhaps you didn’t respond to a situation the way you wanted? Naming the exact failure is powerful because it allows you to begin to fix it.
Make amends. Is it possible to fix what you did wrong? If so, retake that test or apologize to the person you hurt ASAP.
Make a plan for the future. Now that you know what you did wrong, it’s time to foolproof your life so you don’t make the same mistake again. List the steps you can take to avoid the same failure in the future – and act on it.
Learning from your failures isn’t always easy, but it’s the best way to make the most out of a bad situation. No matter what period of your life you’re in right now, failure is bound to be a part of the package.
The best you can do is to learn how to deal with failure, learn from it, and wake up tomorrow with a clean slate and a plan to do better.