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How to Turn Failure Into a Positive Part of Your Life

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Have you ever wondered why some people handle failures so well? They take setbacks in stride and don’t let anything keep them from working towards their goals. How do they do this? Are these people that much tougher than you and me? Yes, they are. Well, yes and no.

You see, mental toughness is a complicated idea, not easily summed up by saying one person is more tough than the other. But in this regard, if we are comparing ways we handle failure, someone who takes it well is much more mentally tough in respect to failure than someone who doesn’t. 

That’s because the ability to be resilient and bounce back from failure is one of the six attributes that make up mental toughness. Though, to build this form of mental toughness is not complicated. Those who are able to face failure head on and move right past it all have one thing in common… their perspective on failure. 

How to Develop a Positive Perspective on Failure

Telling people to have a positive outlook on failure can be met with some resistance. The essence of failure means it’s not the result we want, so why should we feel positively towards it? I think this stems from the misconception that having a positive perspective means you want to fail.

Of course, we all would prefer to succeed every second. That’s just not how success works, in fact, the higher your goals, the more failures are likely to occur. But that doesn’t mean you have to want the failures. 

Having a positive perspective means shifting the way failure impacts your life. Instead of allowing it to tear you down, you can choose to use it in a positive way. To do that, you need to begin thinking about failure quite differently.

“The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure.” – John C. Maxwell

Recognize What’s in Your Control 

After failure occurs, it’s natural to be consumed by anger. You may become angry with yourself, your environment, or the failure itself. This wave of anger typically manifests in you seeking control. None of us like to feel powerless, which is why anger becomes such a safe emotional response. 

The angrier we become, the more control we seem to have. However, the control we aim to obtain rarely involves aspects of life that are actually within our power to control. This is when you begin to blame everyone else for your failures and think about all the things you could’ve changed or done differently to avoid the failure altogether. 

At this point, though, there is no use focusing on the past or the cause of the failure (unless you are giving it attention as a way to learn). The more you become emotionally invested in the past or seek to control that which you cannot in the present, the more difficult handling failure will become. 

So, what is in our control after suffering a setback or failure? Well, simply put, we are. How we react emotionally and what our next steps will be are the main areas in our control that need attention.

The failure has happened, accept it. Don’t spend too much time dwelling on the past or feeling self-pity for the misfortunes you faced. Right now, you have a wonderful choice to make, either continue to feel sorry for yourself and let anger consume you or decide you will handle the failure positively and focus on what’s in your control.

Next time you are faced with failure, try focusing on these key areas:

  • Your Thinking: What thoughts come to mind when you fail? Do you criticize yourself or do you use uplifting and positive self-talk?
  • Your Attitude: What’s your attitude when it comes to failure? Instead of taking it as a personal defeat, view it as a learning experience (more on this in the next section).
  • Your Attention: Are you giving focus to your past, going over all the things you could’ve done better? Or do you put all your attention and energy into improving yourself and progressing forward?

View Failure as a Learning Experience 

While we may not be able to control whether failure happens to us, it’s completely within our power to choose how we view failing. For some reason, we feel like failure must be viewed in a negative way. 

Holding to this idea is what leads to an intense fear of failure. We build up all these negative and threatening consequences around failing, that it’s natural to become terrified of it happening to us. 

Though, there is another option. We all know failure is going to happen, so it’s wise to begin using it to our advantage. All it takes to begin leveraging your failures is to alter your view of what it means to fail. 

Instead of being afraid to fail and taking each one so personally, begin to view them as learning opportunities. Each time you fail, you grow one step closer to your goal. It can serve as an incredible opportunity to learn what does and doesn’t work and alter your approach accordingly. 

Once you start to see failure as a lesson, your view of it becomes much more objective. You would not take a math lesson personally; you’d simply learn from it. Have the same mindset in terms of failure. See it as a mere lesson that’s actually positive, since it’s helping you inch your way closer to success. 

Eli Straw is the founder of Success Starts Within and has an M.S. in psychology. Eli's goal is to provide valuable performance psychology information to the public, and help individuals optimize their lives. If you would like to read more articles written by Eli, you can view them here. You can follow Eli on Twitter at @straw_eli. If you would like to learn more about how you can benefit from mental performance coaching, feel free to email Eli at elistraw@successstartswithin.com.

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