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5 Strategies to Accept Failure and Move on (With Examples)


Failing does not make you a failure. Yes, you might not have achieved a set goal, but that’s OK. But somehow, I hear more people label themselves as failures than as successes.

Why are we quick to label ourselves as failures and yet reluctant to call ourselves a success? Newsflash, dwelling on a perceived failure doesn’t help anyone. Our well-being deteriorates when we count our failures and let them build up. If you want to maximize your happiness, you must learn how to accept failure and move on. 

This article will discuss failure and how we can move on from it. Read on to learn how to shed the overbearing weight of a perceived failure. 

What is failure? 

This article defines failure as an “omission of occurrence or performance.” It occurs when we do not achieve a goal we have set. 

What we perceive as a personal failure can impact our feelings of self-worth, reduce our self-esteem and dampen our mood. 

But what we forget to take into account are the other influential factors such as:

  • The environment. 
  • Other people.
  • Politics.
  • Culture.
  • Unforeseen circumstances. 

You see, very often, our failures are not our sole responsibility. And yet, many of us carry the weight of failure as our burden to bear. 

Sometimes it’s our goal setting that is flawed. Remember, goals must be achievable. When we strive to meet unachievable goals, we only increase our chances of anxiety and depression

What every failure has in common 

Do you know what every failure has in common? Courage! 

Having the courage to risk failure in the first place is enormous. But we are often so caught up in the negative consequences that we forget to give ourselves credit for our bravery. 

At least we tried. We set our sights on a target, and we did our utmost to achieve it. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. 

I have learned to admire my courage when I think of my failures. 

I run ultra-marathons competitively. But I’ll let you into a little secret. For a long time, I didn’t train properly. I was too afraid of failure. I worried that if I invested more time and energy into my training and running goals, I would set myself up for a fall.

For some reason, not trying removed my risk of failure. 

Sometimes, the bravest thing we can do is in the starting. Ignoring our doubt and pushing forward, knowing there is a risk of failure. 

5 ways to move on from failure 

From failed businesses to failed relationships, I’m sure we all have our own stories of failures. But if we can’t move on from them, we can’t set ourselves up for success. 

I want to help you find a way to accept any failure dragging you down and move on. 

Here are 5 ways you can move on from failure. 

1. Find acceptance  

You can’t change the result. There is no time machine to take you back in time. We need to learn to sit with the outcome and find peace. 

Don’t take lessons from Donald Trump, who failed to be re-elected and had an adult tantrum for the whole world to see—crying about election fraud and spouting incomprehensible garble! We’re a few years on, and he is still to accept his failure. 

To move on from failure, we must first accept it. 

  • Recognize a failure. 
  • Identify any areas that went wrong. 
  • Make notes of any learnings. 
  • Accept it. 
  • Move on. 

Remember, when we accept something, we flow over it like a river. When we offer resistance, we are working against the river. This resistance will only leave us exhausted and frustrated. 

2. Seek closure

Accepting failure is critical, but we must also close it off and avoid ruminating. Here at Tracking Happiness, we have a whole article dedicated to closure

In this article, we acknowledge the grief involved in seeking closure. We don’t restrict grief to bereavement. As outlined in our article on closure, “we experience grief at the loss of anything important to us.”

So take some time to grieve the loss this failure has brought. Recall all the good times interlaced in your failure. Then pack it up and lay it to rest. 

3. Practice self-compassion 

It’s important to be kind to yourself. By all means, take appropriate responsibility, but do not beat yourself up

I once gave CPR to a lady who had taken an overdose. She died while her 3-year-old child was running around the room. As much as I tried, I could not bring her back. Her death was not my fault. But did I fail to save her? 

I practiced self-compassion to help me in these circumstances. 

  • Notice and reject any abusive thoughts. 
  • Meditate.
  • Take a warm bath.
  • Exercise. 
  • Avoid escaping the pain through drinking or drugs. 
  • Spend time with friends. 
  • Speak about how you feel. 
  • Sit with your feelings. 

It’s OK to feel sad, frustrated, upset, and disappointed. Recognize these feelings, work through them and move on. Forgive yourself and be kind to yourself. 

How would you speak to your best friend if they were in your shoes? Take that approach. If you need more examples, here’s an entire article about how to pick yourself up.

4. Focus on what you learned 

Our efforts are never without learning. While we may not recognize this immediately, it will come to light over time.

I set up a small passion business on the side of my day job. I worked tirelessly and passionately on it. Eventually, after 5 years, I gave up. Initially, I felt like a failure. If only I had done X, Y or Z, maybe the business would have thrived and survived.

But when I look back, I’m stunned at how much I learned. While this business didn’t survive, it taught me numerous invaluable lessons: 

  • Effective networking.
  • Website building and management.
  • Sales and marketing. 
  • Content creation. 
  • Branding. 
  • Leadership.
  • Time management.

On reflection, I don’t see a failed business. I see a period of personal learning. I have used these skills in other areas of my life. The wisdom I gained from the failure has led me to new opportunities. 

5. Try again 

Failure is not a definitive result. If you try again after failure, you can define your own future.

Here’s an example: I consider myself a good driver. I’m an advanced driver, and for years I drove police cars to emergency calls. Sirens blasting and blue lights flashing. 

But it took me 3 attempts to pass my driving test. The nerves took hold of my body, and I made stupid mistakes. 

Imagine I gave up after the first failure! No campervan trips in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. No exploring the coastline of my beautiful Scotland, and no driving to emergency calls. 

If I had accepted failure as the definitive result, the ripple effect on my life would be profound.

Wrapping up

We all fail from time to time, but that doesn’t make us failures. What’s worse than failure is not having tried at all! Our happiness depends on our ability to move on from our sense of failure, with our well-being intact. 

What do you think? Do you find it hard to accept failure and move on? Or do you want to share a tip that has helped you deal with a recent failure? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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Ali Hall

Writer

Kindness is my superpower. Dogs and nature are my oxygen. Psychology with Sports science graduate. Scottish born and bred. I’ve worked and traveled all over the world. Find me running long distances on the hills and trails.

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