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How to bounce back from failure

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 30 Mar 2022

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When things don’t go quite according to plan, how can you build resilience and try again? We asked caba mental health expert Kirsty Lilley for her advice.

Keep perspective

It’s easy to fall into the trap of imagining how one failure might lead to another, then the prospect of losing your job, your home… So it’s important to rein in your imagination, avoid catastrophising and focus on what you can control in the moment. “We lose perspective, and think that everything about ourselves and our identity is predicated on one exam,” says Kirsty. “That’s just not how it works. We’re much more than an exam. We can take exams again, we have choices.”

Get comfortable with failure

“A lot of high achievers find failure uncomfortable, but it’s a necessary part of maturity – and handling it will really stand you in good stead,” says Kirsty. The most successful people are those who recognise that failure is part of life, and see it as an opportunity for growth. “People with a growth mindset are interested in the process and the learning opportunity – they know that disappointment is a part of human experience. All success is predicated on failure, really, because you don’t get the success unless you learn what works – and, by default, you learn what doesn’t work.”

Be kind to yourself

Many people motivate themselves through criticism, but beware the harsh inner voice. “If you’re berating yourself heavily, it triggers your fight or flight response; you’re walking around with your own internal threat. Who do you want in your head with you, this harsh self-critic you would never send anyone else to, or this compassionate ally who’s going to support you through?” says Kirsty. “Self-compassion is a better predictor of success. When you’re self-compassionate, you have a toolbox of being able to soothe yourself through disappointment, and get back on the horse.”

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