Getting slapped down by life is never fun. But there's a lot you can do to win in the end.
We all have many opportunities to feel like a failure. What separates the ultimate winners from everyone else may seem astronomical in scope, but it actually isn't much. A few practices--7 in all--may feel hard at the time, but will help you make defeat only a temporary stop on your way to what you want to achieve.
Get up and try again
It's basic advice, yes, but important. Almost everyone gives up a little too soon. Success in any aspect of life is more often than not a product of patience and persistence. J.K. Rowling and FedEx founder Fred Smith are just two of many examples who hit what must have seemed like utter defeat at different points. Imagine Steve Jobs when he was ousted from the company he had co-founded because he was unable to deliver on successful product introductions, in addition to personal friction with many others at Apple. Such people know, though, that defeat is only final when you will no longer stand and start anew.
Learn an important lesson
Defeat can be an instructive teacher. Any time you stumble, there are reasons. Some may be beyond your control, but anything else can show you where you need to spend more time and effort. Whether the stumbling point is a product feature, poor customer service, insufficient effort, a seeming inability to keep promises to friends, or a failed relationship, there is something to learn to either do or not do next time around.
Redefine the problem
Failure can't be an end but part of a continuing process. You have to redefine what it means to you, rather than taking it as the "finished line." But also, you may fail because you're trying to solve the wrong problem. A great example is human-powered flight. One person after another failed in achieving a goal that British industrialist Henry Kremer had set in 1959: flying a human-powered plane in a figure-eight around two pylons a half mile apart. Paul MacCready won the 50,000 prize 18 years later. Many had spent extensive periods building craft that crashed in their first trial. MacCready realized the essential problem was not how to come up with a winning design in one shot, but how to create a plane that could be quickly rebuilt and modified so he could get closer to success each time.
Fake it 'til you make it
Failing is a difficult experience. You feel that you've wasted time, your efforts could never get you where you want to go, and continuing is hopeless. Maybe you duck talking to friends and family to avoid having to explain how things went wrong. Your confidence is shaken. It's time to use an old acting trick. Pretend to feel as you eventually wish to feel. Konstantin Stanislavski explained it in his book, An Actor Prepares. An established actor visits an acting class and talks glowingly about a part he's currently playing. After the actor leaves, the acting teacher explains that the artist was not initially fond of the part and so was talking enthusiastically about it so the genuine feeling would come about.
Don't dwell on the problem
Yes, you failed. Things went wrong. But stop rehearsing the failure to yourself. It's time to be busy with getting on and making more progress. The more time you spend on dwelling in a problem that already happened, the less time you have to become successful.
Create some perspective
When we're intent on achieving some goal, failure can feel like the weight of the world. However, it ultimately is of small interest. The globe will spin regardless and, absent highly unusual circumstances, you will continue to exist. Chances are also good that you have not somehow been permanently barred from achieving your goal.
Prepare for the next bout
More difficult than failure are multiple experiences of defeat in short succession. When you get up after being knocked down once, don't blindly head into battle again. Take enough time to prepare for the mistakes you made, so you don't do so again. Prepare yourself completely for success.