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Bounce back from failure

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Failure is always a possibility in life. Most people fail at something, be it an exam or a job interview, a work task, or a relationship.

Yes failure happens, so live with it and learn from it. It's how you deal with failure that matters. So how exactly do you do that? Here are five top tips.

1. Remember you are not alone

You aren't the first person to make a mistake or fail. Most successful people have failed in their lives but they've shown resilience. Some of the world's greatest innovators, geniuses and athletes have experienced failure. The Apprentice boss, Lord Alan Sugar, failed his 11-plus and became a multi-millionaire businessman. Author JK Rowling has written about how she bounced back from failure and now has an estimated fortune of £570 million.

Neeta Patel runs New Entrepreneurs Foundation, which develops young business talent. "It's important to talk to young entrepreneurs about how to cope with failure," says Neeta. "It's especially hard if you are the sort of bright, sparky person who did well at school, went to university and got a degree. It's not until your early 20s and in business that you really experience failure of any sort, and it can be hard."

2. Take time out

If just thinking about your failure makes you want to hide from the world just do it. Take some time to wallow in your disappointment, use a punch bag to release your pent-up feelings, cry fat tears into your pillow. If it's a relationship break-up, spend hours mooning over photos of the pair of you together.

"When we encounter setbacks, our body often goes into the stress state. Therefore when stressed, people are less likely to think clearly and come to good decisions," says Neil Shah, director of The Stress Management Society. "Take some time to relax before continuing and this will allow you to see the setback in a more positive light and learn from it."

It may help to talk over what happened to a non-judgemental friend, colleague or even counsellor. The act of discussing what happened may give you a better sense of perspective and it may make you realise what went wrong and how you could have done things differently.

The time you take out shouldn't be open-ended, give yourself an hour, a day, a week depending on the event. Stop and move on.

3. Accept it and let it go

Don't let a failure define you. Just because you failed doesn't mean you are a failure. Remember each failure makes you stronger, bigger and better. Draw a line in the sand and get on with life. Acceptance was found to be one of the best ways of dealing with small failures in a University of Kent study. The research, published in the journal Anxiety, Stress & Coping, had 149 people keep daily dairies in which they wrote their day's most irritating failure and how they dealt with it. Accepting their mistake left people most satisfied at the end of the day. In contrast, people felt worse at the end of the day if they'd used the coping techniques of self-blame, denial and venting.

"Humans are not perfect creatures," says Neil who's the author of The 10- Step Stress Solution. "We all make mistakes and the first and most important step is acceptance. Realistically, failure and setback are part of life and rather than letting it get you down, use it as an opportunity for personal growth and development."

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