How To Spring Back from Failure

Last week Lynne Guey wrote a guest post about about failure and confidence in the midst of the quarterlife crisis — the struggle to find sure footing and get comfortable in your “career skin” despite setbacks and “failures”.


It made me think of a talk on failure I went to last September for IgniteNYC. One of the speakers, Jay Dixit spoke about failure from a psychological perspective. Jay’s a psychology writer and gave an interesting and entertaining five minute speech on our potential for immunity to trauma.


Trauma – from combat, death and disease to getting fired or a broken heart– results in depression and a sense of hopelessness and anxiety.  But how long that depression lasts is different for different people.


Some people remain depressed. Most return to post distress level. But some bounce back to a level higher than they were before. Psychologists study these people to find out what gives them this resilience.


“A year after the traumatic event they are braver more persistent, more curious more creative, better relationships, more open to new possibilities.”

Jay tells us that anyone can do this. You can watch the full video here.  But the key point is that it’s not the event that makes you depressed it’s the story you tell yourself about it.


So if you get fired, you can tell yourself you are failure and are no good and won’t amount to anything or you can tell yourself a story where you are the “hero”. You can say, “I am meant for something bigger and greater and they did not see how good I was and this frees me up to find the people that do.”


There is no “right” story (of course I think it helps to figure out your part in it  and learn from it…like this guy did here as did Lynn!).


But Dixon goes on to make the case for optimism.


“If you expect to fail because your are in a state of anxiety which impairs your performance.  If you feel helpless, you stop trying and miss opportunities.”


And very relevant to those of us awaiting spring in NYC:


“It’s easy to think this way. ‘In the dead of winter sometimes it’s hard to see that spring is coming. But the winter doesn’t last forever.  And if you think like an optimist and focus on what you can control and look for meaning…you can come back stronger than you were before.”




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