Three Ways to Capitalize on a Setback

June 8, 2017

false-98375_1280George A. Custer famously said, “It’s not how many times you get knocked down that count, it’s how many times you get back up.”  If you’re not a U.S. military history buff, you’ve still probably heard plenty of motivational quotes to the effect that, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try again.’  For most people, this is easier said than done.

The good news, however, is that you can use setbacks as motivation to drive future success.  Here is how.

  1. Put your pride into perspective. Jessica Tracy, an author and psychologist at the University of British Columbia, thoroughly studied the effects of authentic pride—feelings of accomplishment and fulfillment, on motivation.  She found that students who reported feeling a low sense of authentic pride after receiving a poor test score were more likely to modify their study approach and work to improve the results of their next exam.  Students who had the same poor scores, but did not feel a low sense of pride were much less motivated to improve.

This means that when your ego is bruised or you experience a setback about which you feel remorse or regret, it will ultimately motivate you to work harder in the long run.  Consider putting your pride aside and shifting your feelings from remorse to action.  Use your disappointment to devise a new approach, and try again.

  1. Build your level of self-confidence. To capitalize on a setback, it’s imperative to regain your self-confidence.  You may need to engage a mentor from whom you can learn how you could—and should, have done things differently.  Armed with knowledge, you’ll feel more empowered and confident the next time you embark on the task.  If you are disappointed in the delivery of a presentation that you spent a lot of time preparing, for example, consider what you can do differently next time.  Dale Carnegie said, “Practice makes permanent.”  Perhaps investing more time actually practicing your presentation is all you need to do.  Draw on whatever range of sources you have available to boost your self-confidence.
  1. View the setback as an opportunity to grow. When we fail, it’s normal to feel defeated, deflated, disappointed, etc.  Dale Carnegie said, “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”  The only way to derive fuel from your failure is to consider it an opportunity to grow.

First, figure out why you failed.  If you were vying for a promotion and it was awarded to someone else, politely ask the hiring manager for that particular role where you fell short.  Explain that you were really excited about the opportunity and plan to gain whatever skills, experience, etc. you lack.  If you were told you need more technical skills, for example, enroll in the appropriate course.

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