Coping With Failure

Coping with failure

by Jayaram V


Nothing strikes us more hurtfully than failure. Especially, in case of people with poor self-esteem and low self-confidence, the pain and fear associated with failure is much more serious, damaging and debilitating. It can have a lasting and crippling effect.

Failure prevents many from being true to their potential and realizing their cherished dreams. Concerned as we are with success and survival, living in a competitive world that worships winners and castigates losers, even people with normal self esteem tend to react to failure negatively, with feelings of despair, depression, inadequacy, incompetence and loss of self-esteem. Unless there is a paradigm shift in our thinking, we will continue to rejoice at our successes and cringe at the very thought of our failures.

Since success and failure are inseparable from our lives, as long as we are engaged in some professional activity or the other, we have to find healthy ways to deal with our failures to keep working at our goals and realize our dreams.


You may not have the confidence to admit, but you have the ability to deal with any failure or problem in your life. Confidence is the key. If you have confidence in yourself and in your abilities, you can overcome any failure in your life. However tough it may be, no problem is insurmountable to human intelligence. You can deal with every failure in a positive, intelligent and decisive ways. You have the power, you have the skills and you have the strength to confront your failures and minimize their impact upon your life and actions, just as you can manage any situation in your life, with right effort and right frame of mind.

Sharing your success
We are conditioned to succeed, not only because it makes us feel good in comparison with others against whom we compete but also because it creates many opportunities to gain rewards, more opportunities to succeed further and recognition from the peers. The main reason why we love success is because it feeds our egos and makes us larger than what we are. If this is the sole reason why you want to be successful, you are bound to crash and burn mentally emotionally when things heat up and failure becomes imminent. Even though you may succeed in the beginning stages, failure catches up with you later in your life as the forces against you increase in number and gather strength. Failure and setbacks are unavoidable when you pursue success. Everyone who wants to achieve success in life must be aware of this. This problem can be offset by extending the rewards of your success and making others partners in your success. If you share the rewards of your success with others, there will be people to help you, console you or stand by you, when you have problems and setbacks in your life.

You can overcome failure with optimism, objectivity, awareness and sense of responsibility, before it consumes you with its raw force of negativity and makes you feel hopeless and helpless. With simple commonsense, you can find solutions to the problems that are holding you down and preventing you from realizing your goals.

There may be times in your life, when you feel defeated, ignored or neglected. But they would not last long, unless you succumb to your fears and worries. The best way to deal with failure is to treat it like any other problem, which needs to be understood and resolved rationally, not emotionally.


Failure is normal. We all have experienced it and we all know what it means. We don‘t have to feel depressed when we fail in achieving something. Success and failure are two possibilities in any goal oriented action. We stumble before we learn to walk. We fail before we succeed. We cannot guarantee the result, but we can always guarantee the best possible effort.

Our success and failure in any endeavor depend upon many factors some of which are within our control and some are not. If someone has succeeded in reaching a goal, it does not mean one will always be. Several forces and factors come together, to make an event possible. There is always an element of uncertainty associated with our lives and actions. So accept failure as a normal and natural process. Do not beat yourself for your failures and suffer from low self-esteem.

Failure is not the end of all, but the culmination of some actions or decisions taken or not taken during the course of an organized effort. A failure is success in the making, unless you want to give up. It is an incomplete task, which you need to finish with resolve. It is a phase within a process; a problem within a solution; and a nightmare within a dream that arises because it has a message to deliver and a lesson to teach.

Just as pain and suffering resurface in our lives from time to time to remind us that we are mere mortals; failure arises from our actions and undertakings to remind us that we are just human beings. Failure is the means, with which we carve our path to success. For us to enjoy the fruit of success, we need to suffer the roughness of failure.

The best thing about failure is it is temporary, manageable and solvable. It is therefore better to treat failure as a process or event, which needs to be examined, analyzed and dealt with effectively rather than attribute it to one‘s intrinsic factors and suffer from it.


You can either learn from failure or suffer from it. The choice is yours. In life we are always presented with this choice, whether we are aware of it or not. We fail because something somewhere goes wrong. It may be a decision or a process we used or an action we have undertaken. Since we are not perfect, there is always a possibility that we may make mistakes and delay our progress. If we have the courage to admit our mistakes and pay attention to them, our suffering will be less.

We notice failure when we find a perceptible gap between performance and expectation or between what is done and what is required. So in a way failure is relative, because what is standard for someone may not be for another. What you consider as failure may be success for some and what you think as success may be failure for someone else.

You have greater chances of making progress in life, if you accept failure as an eye-opener or a learning opportunity. Failure grounds you in the reality of life, by putting things in proper perspective. You can use it to overcome your imperfections or ignorance. You can use it to measure your progress or learn from it to polish your skills and faculties. You can learn to deal with your problems more effectively and efficiently, by knowing what went wrong and how it happened.

If you consider failure with such spirit and attitude, as a warning signal, or a sign of something amiss, which you can use for your self-improvement or your self-awareness, you will not be upset by the interruptions and delays it creates and make use of them to your best advantage. But if you treat it as a mark of weakness or personal shortcoming on your part and if you feel depressed dejected by it, you may likely discontinue your efforts and not reach your goals at all. So embrace failure as a learning opportunity and deal with it effectively, to minimize the chances of its repetition and its impact on your life.


Optimism is good, but it is always better to be aware of the risks involved in any situation. Before you start your goal oriented action, anticipate what kind of problems you may expect on the way and prepare yourself adequately to cope with them.

Remain in a state of preparedness to reduce your chances of failure. Use your foresight to foresee the areas where you may likely face problems or setbacks, and make adequate preparations to meet with them. Devise suitable alternative and contingency plans to deal with the problems that you may likely encounter during the various phases of your goal oriented actions. If still things happen, learn from your own experience and become wiser, efficient and effective. This is the best and prudent way to minimize your losses, conserve your resources, remain focused on your goals and stay on course. With such an approach, failure becomes an integral part of your vision for success.

So whatever you do, be flexible and always have a backup plan. Be prepared to deal with contingencies, or the unforeseen and unexpected situations. Develop action plans, alternate scenarios and intervention mechanisms to deal with different kinds of situations, as they may develop from time to time and interfere with your progress.


We are semi-perfect and limited in our knowledge, skills and awareness. Perfection comes to us after many years of effort and dedication. Even then, one is not sure whether one is well prepared to weather all the challenges in one‘s life. However well prepared, intelligent and knowledgeable we are, whenever we embark upon a new course of action, we cannot escape from the possibility of failure.

Wisdom, therefore, demands that we should not take things for granted and that we should remain alert to the events happening around us. When we are working towards our goals, we have to watch our progress carefully, with our minds acting like sensors, ready to grasp a situation and identify the problem areas. A driver cannot fall asleep while driving. So are we when we are working towards our goals. We have to monitor our progress constantly, using every available barometer and seek feedback from people and situations to know what is going on. We have to consult the experts in the field, if necessary, to know whether we are progressing in the right direction.

Source: Reproduced partially from the article, "Becoming Aware of Yourself" from the book Think Success by Jayaram V. You may purchase this book from our online store

Suggestions for Further Reading

About Think Success: In 44 well written articles presented in this books, you are introduced to a treasure trove of transformational wisdom. By following the suggestions given in this book, you can achieve success and happiness and live. It is written by Jayaram V, author of several books and hundreds of essays about Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Spirituality and Self-help. This book is currently available at our Online Store (for residents of USA, Canada, UK and some other countries only).

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