The best advice I’ve ever been given was: make mistakes and do not be afraid of failure, because that is what will lead you to success. This was a weird piece of advice to receive because, all I was ever taught was to never make mistakes, or to learn from the mistake others made so I never made my own. The concept of my own failure not being the end of the world was completely foreign to me. So, hearing someone tell me that it was ok to make mistakes in life was equivalent to the feeling of someone playing with playing with my hair. Soothing and comforting; I also felt a sense of reassurance once I was given that advice, I knew that if I pushed myself hard enough eventually everything would turnout okay. This advice was given to me during a tough time in my college career, I was not doing well in some core classes for my future career. I was questioning whether I wanted to stay in my major or change to a different major but within the same field, there was a lot going on at home, and I was feeling generally lost. I did not have a sense of direction at to where I saw my life going; I was, in a sense, floating aimlessly. I felt like I had no purpose, goals, or anything to push me onto my path of success. This may sound dramatic to some of you, but let me put it in perspective for you: Something my parents and I had been pushing for, for years, was not going to come true. When you have put in so much time, volunteer hours, shadowing hours, research proposals, etc. into something only to realize that 1) you are not good at it and 2) you do not actually want to do it, it can be a lot to wrap your head around, especially for a 19-year-old.
Being brought up the way I was, being a practical and rational decision maker was vital. My elder brother and I were always taught to make the most practical and rational choice given whatever options we had. With that thought process ingrained into me from a young age, the only practical thing for me to do was to change my major. However, that added a level of uncertainty and stress to my plate. Naturally, I sought the advice of people I looked up to and trusted: my parents, my uncle and my mom’s cousin. My parents, while very disappointed in my grades for that term, understood where I was coming from when I explained how I did not have the passion I once held to pursue what I originally wanted. They gave me a practical option: take 4 classes all in different topics/majors and choose a major from there. I ended up taking an International Law class and boom found what I loved. Reading case law, understanding the different ways to interpret laws, and overall legal issues interested me so much more than what the 3-D molecular structure of a chemical compound. It was my mom’s cousin that gave me the advice mentioned at the beginning of this post. He had made some risky decisions in his life thus far and when I told him I was struggling, he told me what I needed to hear most. Along with the advice, he told me that one single failure would not define my success as long as I did not let it: “Follow your passions Shalu, they will not let you down.”
This failure to choose a right major in the beginning of my career helped me realize my true passions in life. Having this as a part of my journey pushed me out of my comfort zone, made me gain new perspectives in life, and also helped me learn more about myself. So, for those of you who are in search of some advice for a twenty something year old (I know I am not super wise, but I have made mistakes and grown from them and I think the best way for people to understand is through hearing others’ experiences), here are 4 ways to learn from and pick yourself up after a failure.
UNDERSTAND WHAT THE MISTAKE WAS
Whether you messed up in a class or you accidentally messed up a project at work, you need to understand what happened that led you to fail. Did you not understand the material in class, did you read the instructions wrong for the project, did you not double check your work for that math final? Or was is it deeper than that? Are you not fulfilled with your choice of career, are the classes you are taking not stimulating or interesting to you, are you not enjoying your core major classes? Once you understand what happened, you can move forward and figure out what steps you need to take in order learn from that failure.
PICK YOURSELF BACK UP
If the failure was big enough to lead you to get fired, broken up with, fail a class, etc., you cannot let it stop you. Take your time to wallow, but not too long. You need to get back up and keep going. What was it that you did to get fired? Use that as a learning experience for your next job. If it was failing a class, go talk to your professor and TA/GTF to see what you could have done better and put those efforts towards your next classes. You cannot and should not let mistakes define you or stop you from succeeding. They are the stepping stones you need to come across to be great.
I cannot stress this one more. Getting help, from whoever it may be, is not a weakness. No one can figure everything out on their own, not even the most successful person in the world. A support system is necessary for success. Be it family, friends, a life coach, a significant other, a therapist, etc., when you fail they are the ones in your corner. They are the ones who will help you pick yourself up again and give you the push to keep going. Your support system will give you advice, help you find a new job, take your mind off that relationship, and just be there to lend a hand or shoulder. Getting help from people who care about you and want nothing but the best for you is the opposite of showing weakness. Realizing when you need help and taking the initiative to go and seek it shows a special kind of strength that not many people have. It shows that you have the ability to recognize and understand that you are struggling, stressed, or lost, and have the emotional intelligence to get help when you cannot go at it alone.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
A failure can take a toll on your health both mentally and physically. So you need to make sure you have ways to care for your health. Coming up with a good self-care routine can help you de-stress at the end of the day. Say you lost your job and are in the process of looking for another, after the grueling, nerve-wracking interviews, and the hundreds of tailored resumes and cover-letters, take time to draw yourself a bubble bath and relax. Give yourself a sheet-mask facial, or go on Pintrest and find a DIY facial to make, and just relax in the tub for an hour. Soak away your stresses, and relax. If baths are not your thing, or you just do not have a tub, working out is a great way to de-stress and also feel more energized. Run, Box, Zumba, Barre, Dance, etc. are all great ways to get all that anger, fear, stress, fatigue, etc. out of your body after a long day. Taking the time to care for your health, mental and physical, is an important part of healing after a failure or a set-back. Whether it is by physical activity, relaxing, gardening, journaling, etc., make sure to implement self-care into your day to remind yourself that while success matters, you need your body and mind to be functioning at their highest capacity in order for you to get there.