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Confronting Failure: An Opportunity for Growth

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Failure is discouraging and difficult to cope with. We’ve all been confronted with failure and felt that devastating, gut-punch feeling. However, our ability to get back up and persevere is what leads us to some of our most successful and rewarding moments.

“The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles.” —Garth Stein

Seeing a student experience failure can be difficult, as we can empathize with their feelings. We want to see them succeed as much as possible, but facing challenges is inevitable — whether in academics, sports, or social situations — it’s a part of being human. Helping your student cope with failure and see it as an opportunity for growth will aid them significantly in their future academic, athletic, and professional pursuits. Many students, from a young age, become conditioned to view failure as a negative circumstance in their lives, but that’s not always true. More often than not, failure can be a great teaching and learning moment. Throughout history, great occurrences have been born from mistakes and failures. The acceptance of failure, however, is easier said than done.  

Perfectionism: many students with ADHD, anxiety, and OCD face the debilitating pursuit for perfection. Sometimes the idea of failure feels too big and scary for a student to even begin an assignment, let alone turn it in. They would rather not submit their work than face failure in the form of imperfection. A student like this may need support in actually turning their assignment in. Help your student click “submit,” or make sure their paper is printed and ready to go the night before. Encouraging your student to turn in an “imperfect” assignment will help them warm up to the idea that everything they do does not need to be perfect, and that they cannot improve without receiving constructive feedback. By facing failure, you actually take a step closer to perfection. Walking them through the feedback they receive, and reminding them that this is a growth process, may also help. 

Mindfulness and the ability to be non-judgemental of oneself is also important when confronting failure. Studies have shown that students who are more mindful have greater resilience and are better equipped to shrug off their mistakes, get back up, and try again with more success. Gently remind your student that their failure is an opportunity, and that everybody experiences failure at some point. Reminding your student that failure is nothing to be embarrassed about will help them cope with it more gracefully and be less hard on themselves—in turn, allowing them to see it as an opportunity to improve next time. 

Our setbacks, challenges, and moments of failure are what help us improve for “next time.” Life is not absent of these moments, and the sooner a student realizes this, the more resilient they will become. Knowing that these moments and challenges will continue to happen and can be opportunities for growth will help prepare your student to cope with instances when they’re not successful. At Untapped, we’re all about that concept of “grit!”

For More Information: 5+ Ways to Develop a Growth Mindset Using Grit & Resilience