8 ways successful people handle failure differently from the rest, according to psychology

Ava Sinclair by Ava Sinclair | June 30, 2024, 11:16 pm

Failure. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, isn’t it?

We’ve all felt its sting at one point or another. The gut-wrenching feeling that follows a missed opportunity, a botched project, or a dream that just didn’t pan out as planned.

But here’s the thing.

You know those super successful people you read about in magazines or see on TV? The ones who seem to have it all figured out?

Well, they fail too. And often.

The difference is, they don’t handle failure like most people do.

They’ve got their own unique strategies and perspectives when it comes to dealing with setbacks, according to psychology.

Wanna know what these strategies are?

Stay tuned as we unpack the secrets of the successful and their unique relationship with failure.

You might just start seeing your own failures in a whole new light.

1) They embrace failure as a learning opportunity

Let’s face it, failing isn’t fun. It’s uncomfortable, it’s embarrassing, and it can seriously dent our confidence.

But successful people? They don’t let that stop them.

In fact, they do the exact opposite. They fully embrace failure as an integral part of their journey towards success.

They perceive failure not as a dead end but as a stepping stone towards their goals. Each failure is seen as a chance to learn, to refine, and to grow.

They actively seek out the lessons that each setback brings, using them to further their understanding and improve their strategies.

They don’t wallow in self-pity or dwell on the negatives because, for them, failure is simply feedback. It’s data. It’s valuable information that guides them on where to focus their efforts next.

So while most of us might cringe at the thought of failing, successful individuals welcome it with open arms.

Because to them, each failure brings them one step closer to success.

2) They don’t let failure define them

I’ve had my share of failures. We all have.

And there was a time when these failures used to shatter me. I’d take them personally, let them define me, and wear them like a cloak of shame.

But here’s what I’ve learned from observing successful people: they don’t let failure define them.

For them, failure is an event, not a defining characteristic. They understand that failing at a task doesn’t make them a failure as a person.

You see, it’s easy to fall into the trap of associating your self-worth with your successes and failures. But successful people separate their actions from their identity.

They know that one failed attempt doesn’t diminish their worth or potential. It’s merely a temporary setback on the path to their goals.

Just because they’ve failed doesn’t mean they are a failure. And that’s a distinction they make clear in their minds.

It allows them to bounce back faster and keep pushing towards their dreams, regardless of the obstacles in their way.

3) They take calculated risks

Successful people are not afraid to step out of their comfort zones and take risks. They understand that failure is a possible outcome when you’re trying something new or challenging.

But here’s the kicker: they don’t take reckless risks. They take calculated ones. They evaluate the potential gains against the potential losses. They do their homework, plan meticulously and then dive in headfirst.

And even if they fail, they take it in stride. Because for them, the lessons learned from failure often outweigh the temporary setback.

So yes, successful people are risk-takers. But they’re smart about it.

They know when to leap and when to hold back, always keeping their eyes on the bigger picture. 

4) They cultivate a growth mindset

Psychologist Carol Dweck, in her groundbreaking research, identified two types of mindsets that people generally have: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

Individuals with a fixed mindset believe that their abilities and intelligence are set in stone. They see failure as a direct reflection of their capabilities and avoid challenges for fear of failing.

On the other hand, individuals with a growth mindset believe that their abilities can be developed through hard work, learning, and persistence.

They embrace challenges, persist in the face of obstacles, see effort as a path to mastery, and most importantly, they view failure as an opportunity to learn.

Successful people fall into the latter category. They cultivate a growth mindset, which enables them to perceive failure differently.

They don’t view failure as an insurmountable roadblock, but as a detour sign on the road to success. This perspective helps them remain resilient in the face of setbacks and keeps them motivated to pursue their goals.

5) They don’t dwell on their mistakes

Mistakes happen. They are a part of life, a part of growth. But how we handle our mistakes can make all the difference.

In my own life, I’ve made plenty of mistakes. There have been times when I’ve let those mistakes consume me, replaying them over and over in my mind like a broken record.

But that only led to feelings of regret and self-doubt.

Successful people, however, handle their mistakes differently. They don’t spend time dwelling on them or beating themselves up over what went wrong.

Instead, they acknowledge their mistakes, learn what they can from them, and then shift their focus to the future.

They understand that dwelling on past failures won’t change what’s already happened. But what it can do is steal their present and future happiness and success.

6) They surround themselves with positivity

We’ve all heard the saying, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

And there’s a lot of truth to it.

During my journey, I’ve noticed that the people I surround myself with have a huge impact on my mindset and my approach to failure. When I was around negative people who were quick to give up at the first sign of failure, I found myself doing the same.

But successful people seem to have cracked the code on this. They consciously choose to surround themselves with positive and supportive people who uplift them and believe in their potential.

These are the people who encourage them when they’re down, remind them of their capabilities when they doubt themselves, and motivate them to get back up and try again when they fail.

By surrounding themselves with positivity, successful people create an environment that fosters resilience, perseverance, and a positive perspective towards failure.

7) They practice self-compassion

Failure hurts. It’s a blow to our ego, our self-esteem, and our plans.

But the way we talk to ourselves in the aftermath of failure can either amplify that pain or help us navigate it more smoothly.

In my own life, I’ve faced moments where I was my own harshest critic. I berated myself for my failures, which only added to the stress and disappointment.

Successful people, however, handle this differently. They practice self-compassion.

When they stumble, they don’t resort to harsh self-criticism. Instead, they treat themselves with kindness and understanding, acknowledging that everyone makes mistakes and experiences setbacks.

They understand the importance of being gentle with themselves in times of failure. This compassionate self-talk helps them maintain their self-esteem and confidence, despite the setbacks.

8) They remain persistently optimistic

Optimism is a powerful tool. It’s the ability to see the silver lining in every cloud, the potential in every problem, and the success that lies beyond failure.

In my own life, I’ve learned the hard way that pessimism following failure only leads to a vicious cycle of negativity and more failure.

Successful people, however, possess an unshakable optimism. They maintain a positive outlook even in the face of failure. They believe in their abilities and have faith in their potential for success, irrespective of the obstacles they face.

This persistent optimism keeps their motivation levels high and fuels their perseverance. They view each failure as a temporary setback, always believing that success is just around the corner.

By remaining persistently optimistic, successful people are able to navigate through failures without losing their passion or drive.

The final takeaway

Failure is inevitable. But how we respond to it, how we let it shape us, is entirely within our control. The next time you face a setback, take a moment. Reflect on these strategies and see how you can incorporate them into your response.

Ask yourself: Can this failure be a stepping stone towards my goal? Am I defining myself by this setback? Can I learn something from this? Am I being too hard on myself? Can I view this with optimism?

In the end, it’s not just about how successful people handle failure differently, but how we can too.

In the words of the late great Nelson Mandela, “I never lose. I either win or learn.”