Rachel Simmons c.2020 The New York Times Company
Note how you feel without exaggerating or denying your feelings.
I’ve spent the last decade teaching failure resilience to students. Learning to fail is a skill like any other. Which means it takes practice. Here’s how you can approach a setback so that — to paraphrase Cardi B — when you’re knocked down nine times, you can get up 10.
What’s the worst that can happen?
After I bombed a speech earlier this year, my first instinct was to blame myself. How could I have let my nerves get the best of me? But self-blame can inhibit you from taking risks in the future. Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford, calls this the “fixed mind-set” — the belief that failure is a dead end.
What you want to have instead is a “growth mind-set” — the ability to see failure as an opportunity to learn. I advise my students to ask themselves the following questions when they’re hesitant to take a risk: What’s the worst that can happen? Then, Can you deal with that outcome? What resources do you have to handle it? What are some possible benefits of your failure, even if the situation doesn’t work out?
You are more than your mistake
I may have bombed that speech, but I have also aced a lot of other speeches. I know this, and yet it became hard for me to remember in the moment. You’ve also had a series of successes or you wouldn’t be so upset by a setback.
Try to remind yourself what those successes are to soothe yourself after a misstep. The point is not to pretend a mistake didn’t happen, it’s to remember you are not defined by it.
So, you’ve bombed. Who’s being hard on you? It’s probably not your boss, colleagues or best friend — it’s you. Self-compassion is the practice of offering yourself the same grace you’d give to others. Just like failure, self-compassion can be learned.
Here are three easy steps, developed by Kristin Neff, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin:
1) Note how you feel without exaggerating or denying your feelings.
2) Remind yourself you aren’t alone.
3) Imagine what you’d say to a friend in the situation. Then direct those words at yourself.
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