How To Cope With Failure And Embrace It As An Integral Part Of Our Lives? - Part 3

Dr. Lisa Law,
Clinical Psychologist

Unless we have the freedom to fail - we don’t have the freedom to succeed. How to cope with failure and embrace it as an integral part of our lives?

For risk takers - failure is part of the journey. Although entrepreneurs are more confident in their personality - understanding that failure is inevitable - is a must. Otherwise - there’s a lot of suffering, self blame and frustration. Just like children learn how to walk by falling and learning - same goes for us. The more we are psychologically resilient - the quicker we will bounce back.

Why do people don’t want to cope with failure?

People want confidence. By coping with failure - it’s like putting a mirror of what didn’t work well which may lead to confusion, frustration and a sense of instability of how to act next. Instead of letting it affect our self-esteem and thinking how others will see us - we have to be realistic, to be able to meet it, and move away from it, like Tony Robbins said:

“A fantastic analogy for the power of focus is racing cars. When your car begins to skid, the natural reflex is to look at the wall in an attempt to avoid it. But if you keep focusing on what you fear, that's exactly where you'll end up. Professional racers know that we unconsciously steer in the direction of our focus, so with their lives on the line, they turn their focus away from the wall and towards the open track.”

Vulnerability is the name of the game. Embracing life as they are, and allowing ourselves to be human and navigate through the emotional sides of life. It’s a muscle we need to strengthen - leading with our vulnerability and not ignoring it. 

Not everyone is up to it, as it involves taking risks. People feel safer to take risks in areas where they feel strong. For example, people who are confident in managing money - can take risks in financials. But being an entrepreneur - means also taking an emotional risk, and it may be hard. 

Gen Z, for instance, brings a different mentality into the workforce, and there’s a shift towards being more emotionally connected, keeping their well-being in place, being more authentic, and bringing themselves in. Founders & employers that won’t embrace this mindset - will simply won’t win in the competition for the brightest talents. 

When coping with failure - we need to identify between internal and external attribution and how it impacts us. E.g. - if the pitch didn't go well - is it because I wasn't prepared (internal), or the investors were extremely harsh (external).

If it’s internal but not stable - it’s OK,

but if it’s internal and stable - then we’re stuck.

With the help of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), we can re-evaluate it and change the way we feel towards failure, getting out from our “stuck” place.

When we deal with failure, it can affect our stress level, which will be reflected in:

  • Physiological symptoms, like our increasing heart rate, blood pressure etc. Learning techniques that can actually help us reduce the stress levels - can be very beneficial. In stressful situations - the sympathetic system gets into action, and our adrenaline and cortisol levels can increase as we feel that “the lion is in the room”. By moving, doing exercises, practicing yoga, meditation, shaking our body, learning breathing techniques, eating in shorter intervals and drinking less coffee - we can help calm our sympathetic system. Furthermore, having social support increases the levels of the oxytocin spread in our body (the ‘love’ hormone), which also improves our feeling. 
  • Cognitive aspects - like negative thoughts we should transition into positive ones.
  • Emotional aspects - we can feel unpleasant emotions and feelings.

Ask yourself - which feeling or emotion I don’t allow myself to feel/show enough? Being angry, jealous, hurt?

Dealing with emotions includes 2 stages: 

1 - Validate it, naming it, acknowledging what we feel. 

2 - Stay with it for a while and then move along. Don’t get stuck.

Entrepreneurs often move on, but without necessarily processing what happened to them.

As we volunteer to be part of society - we have to understand that loss, failure and pain are part of life. When we choose to connect with people - we take a risk, as we will also have to learn how to lose & mourn. 

Elizabeth Kobler Ross defined in 1969 the different stages of the loss & mourning. When processing a failure within our entrepreneurial life - we are actually experiencing the loss of a hope/ effort/ belief/ relationship.    

In the 1st stage - we are in denial and/or shock - “the company doesn't close ''/ “he is not leaving”/ “he hasn't died”.

Then we try to bargain  - if XXX then YYY. We try “to close a deal” in order to change the verdict.

Then we feel a strong anger combined with anxiety - “how will I ever be OK?”/

And lastly, is the stage of the acceptance - “I’m not OK that it happened, but I’m OK with it”. 

We’re not necessarily going through all those stages, and we can also get in and out from each stage several times.

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places”/ Ernest Hemingway. 

This idea is what lies in the basis of AEDP, Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy, developed by Dr. Diana Fosha. Crisis and suffering provide opportunities to awaken extraordinary capacities that otherwise might lie dormant, unknown and untapped. AEDP is about experientially making the most of these opportunities for both healing and transformation. Key to its therapeutic action is the undoing of aloneness and thus, the co-creation of a therapeutic relationship experienced as both safe haven and secure base. Then, working with emotional experience toward healing trauma and suffering, and toward expanding emergent positive transformational experiences.

Understanding that life is more complex than two axes of good-bad, right-wrong - we shall embrace the spectrum of experiences we are experiencing through life. Less labeling and categorizing, be less judgmental and more compassionate.

Showing empathy & vulnerability, make it much easier to live life to its fullest. There is a correlation between vulnerability and likeability. 

Remember - learn how to empower yourself and not be awaiting external approvals of who and what you are. 

Failure is our way to learn how to walk.

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