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How to cope with failure is key towards taking more risks, and pushing beyond our comfort zones. This creates plenty of opportunities for learning and for professional success. Here we share few "general" tips on how to handle failure and learn from it.

What is failure?

Roughly speaking, failure is when we can not meet a goal or a desired outcome. Often times, this condition is viewed as the "opposite" of success. But, you might be surprised to know that failures are actually great opportunities for all of us to learn and grow. Very successful and highly-influential figures have experienced failure in their careers, and all believe that failure is not the opposite of success, but, rather, is part of success!

How to cope with failure?

No one likes to fail, but sometimes it's inevitable. If we keep trying, then we will fail every now and then. So, here are few tips on how to better cope with any failure:

1. Accept your emotions and be kind to yourself.

Indeed it hurts to fail. Yet, one needs to accept the accompanying emotions. Distracting ourselves from such emotions might be counter-productive on the long run. So, recognize your feelings, and allow yourself to embrace your emotions. But don't dwell on that, or blame yourself. Just allow some time for the pain to subside, and then start moving on! Sometimes talking to someone close to you is a great way to manage the emotions accompany failures. Getting support will help you accept the failure, gain perspective and find encouragement to try again.

Also, it is important to be self-compassionate. This entails being kind, and non-judgemental towards oneself in the face of difficulty (including failure). Research show that practicing self-compassion is linked to greater mental and physical health.

2. Don't make it personal!

Separate failure from your identity. It is rather harmful to tie failure to ourselves. Failure is NOT an intrinsic part of our identities. So, "I am a failure" should not be our view toward failure. Rather, we need to perceive failure as a mere "setback" that we have experienced, and NOT as a reflection of who we are! By embracing that failure is just a part of the process and far from our identities, then we can maintain enough confidence to continue pursuing our goals.

3. Don't worry about how people will think of you!

Unfortunately many people tie their success or failure to the social pressure of what others will think of them or how they will judge them. Such pressure can cripple all of us if we pay attention to. Make yourself a favour and disregard it completely! It's out of your hand to control how other people think. Besides, research show that those who constantly worry about achieving perfectionism to please others are more likely to suffer from anxiety, and depression following any failure! So, the best approach is to define success or failure in your own terms and only do things because you want to and not because you want to please people!

4. Look for the lesson that will help you improve.

Adopt the Thomas Edison attitude about failure when he failed repeatedly trying to invent the lightbulb. His approach was "I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Edison learned from his mistakes, and improved until he eventually found success. So, don't focus on failure as a failure. Instead, think of it as if "Life" is trying to tell you that you need to improve, and how to do so! Viewing failure as a constructive criticism will offer many lessons to learn. First, you need to identify why failure occurred. Then, ask yourself what changes you need to do to achieve a different outcome next time. Consider failure as an opportunity to learn to do better next time.

Finally, failure is normal and an inevitable part of life as long as we keep trying. Remember that everyone fails. For example, the writer JK Rowling was famously rejected by 12 publishers before managing to get Harry Potter published! What if she had surrendered to rejection number one … or 11? The main point here is that everyone fails, but successful people pick themselves up again and keep moving forward. Do not make the fear of failure hold you back from not even trying. So, try, fail, learn, and repeat until one day you succeed and reach your goal.

Tell us about your thoughts and experience with failure and how you managed to overcome it. Next blog, we will share more tips on how to cope with failure as a scientist. So, stay tuned.

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