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3 steps to turn your failures into stepping stones
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3 steps to turn your failures into stepping stones

May 20, 2020 at 12:00am

By Karina Taylee

When you last failed, was your first response gratitude?

Maybe it should have been, because virtually all failures end up being good lessons in the long run by teaching you how to be a better version of yourself. So let’s ditch the hopelessness and frustration that usually comes with failure and learn how to reframe them into helpful experiences.

Step 1: Acknowledge it happened

The first step in reevaluating your mistakes is to simply acknowledge that a blunder happened without self judgement.

“It’s okay to properly mourn your mistakes, as long as you promise to get over it,” says Alexis Oldham, programs assistant for FIU’s Center for Leadership. She recommends writing down your reflection process as this can help you see the lessons of your mistakes clearly.

Given her experience at the center, Oldham believes students may find the following steps for reflection useful.

  • Be honest when identifying what happened and how.
  • Pinpoint your emotional reaction to a mistake and examine if it was a useful response.
  • Ask if this mistake taught you something new about yourself.
  • Outline a plan to ensure what you learned contributes to your overall goals and skill set.

Maybe you needed tools or skills you did not have at the time. There are plenty of resources on campus to help you along the journey to success, including the Healthy Living Program and Center for Leadership.

Once you’ve reflected, let go of any negativity from the encounter by gently forgiving yourself and moving on.


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Step 2: Look toward the future

Looking forward instead of feeling resentful toward the past is a good way to prevent or help eliminate Imposter Syndrome. This is when people feel like they don’t deserve the success they’ve achieved despite evidence to the contrary, making people feel like an “imposter” who is tricking people about their qualifications. This can happen to anybody—even successful or high achieving people.

If you feel like this, it doesn’t necessarily mean you lack confidence or self-esteem, but it can be linked with perfectionism. Oldham believes that this is very prevalent among university students and the best way of coping is to know that, “whatever you’re doing, you belong because…you had to have shown some sort of interest or ability to be able to get to where you are.”


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Step 3: Be accountable

The trick is to take responsibility without identifying with the failure.

  • Create an action plan to respond with the consequences of failure and know that there is always a positive spin to every situation, even if it’s hard to see at the moment.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of your mistakes. Oldham reminds students that, “ultimately, failures equal experiences…and having more experience can help give a student more leadership ability in things like being relatable, empathetic.. [and being] more open to criticism.”
  • Use this as an opportunity to challenge any assumptions you may have about your situation, which in turn can help you find new paths to accomplishing your goals.
  • This may even give you the confidence to take new risks that you may never have thought of without some failures. 

The most powerful thought to keep in mind after your failure is your end goal and your motivations for reaching them. You may not reach them the way you expected, and that’s okay. Keeping a positive mindset and remaining devoted to goals that matter to you will keep you persevering when faced with adversity.

For additional tips, check out the recent Failing Forward workshop put together by the Healthy Living Program