Some of the world’s most successful people have failed dramatically at some point in their lives.
Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, J.K Rowling—just to name a few. They all have setbacks woven into their very successful narratives. The reason we even know about these people is because they didn’t let challenging situations get them off track. By talking about their struggles they show us that “failure” is all a part of being human, and it’s often a necessary part of success.
Facing a challenging time or an unexpected circumstance doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with us, or that we are incapable. Often, a struggle can take us on a detour that will eventually lead us down the road to success. That road may not look the way we thought it would, or it may take twice as long, and that’s okay. Making adjustments is a part of learning.
Try some of the following when you’re struggling:
Give yourself time
It is really hard when things first go sideways. Give yourself time to process what’s happening and take care of yourself.
Realize that grief and stress are normal
Remember that feeling sad or mad or stressed out is perfectly normal. Allow yourself to feel those emotions and give yourself space to navigate through them.
For example, it may be the situation where you’re stuck in a class and aren’t sure if you’ll pass. You’re likely feeling stressed, but it can be wise to take a step back to see the big picture. You are capable of success and there are ways to help you deal with it. Go to office hours, talk to the professor, seek extra help, or give yourself “me-time” to resettle and start again. After you've processed your feelings, it can be easier to get a new perspective of your situation and press onwards.
Observe your state of mind and body
If you are sleep deprived or food deprived, you won’t be able to make good decisions and are likely feeling way more emotional than usual. Get some food, get some sleep, and then reassess your options.
Reflect on your recent successes
Keep things in perspective. You are likely to miss your goals occasionally, but that doesn’t mean you are a failure. Remember all the times you do succeed and don’t forget to celebrate your strengths.
Reassess your goals and your path
When things don’t go the way you expect, it’s an opportunity to reassess your direction. Is it still where you want to go? If so, is there another way you can get there?
For example, it's common not to get a work or volunteer position you applied for. Consider this—was the goal really a good fit for you? Is that the only path for you? After you decide, you can go over your resume, talk to a friend, visit a professional support service, or seek out other opportunities. There isn’t just “one perfect path” out there.
Now, I’m not naive. There can be serious consequences to failure.
It can be hard on us mentally, emotionally, and even financially. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by setbacks, it’s important to reach out for help and support.
It’s never easy, but it’s the way you think about “failure” that will make a huge difference to the outcome overall. Imagine if J.K Rowling had let her failures stop her from writing. We would have never been given the world of wizards. Or if Steve Jobs had let his failures deter him, we might never have had the iPhone. (Can you even imagine that world?)
If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. This is a well-known saying for a reason. Failure is a possible part of your UBC experience and it will be an amazing growth opportunity. Don't be afraid of it—just change how you view it. Who knows where it will take you!