I owe all the big accomplishments in my life to failure. Without falling flat on my face, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
Writing the book I’d been dreaming about? I’m only now pursuing it after crashing enough times to have something to say. Starting Big Self School? It wouldn’t occur to me had I not gone through burnout in the first place.
Failure and living a life of meaning are two sides of the same coin. You may think they’re polar opposites — but they’re not. One leads to the other in the same way dark winter transitions into spring.
There’s one trick here, though: You need to play an active part in that transition. Once you learn how to deal with failure and grow from it, it becomes the fuel for living as your Big Self.
Why You Need To Fail
I didn’t always see things that way. For a long time, I was doing my best to avoid failure at all costs. I was chasing success — without pausing to ask what it even meant to me.
In 2014, I started a tech company and soon found myself in a typical entrepreneurial hustle. My to-do list was ever-growing. I was pitching, fundraising, doing market research and a thousand other things — all the while trying to nurture my family.
I was chasing a dream, but living an uber-stressful life. Three years was enough to burn out. One day, I woke up knowing I couldn’t — and didn’t want to — take it any longer.
Over the next couple of years, our family went through a rough time. Our finances were wobbly. My husband and I questioned everything and re-thought our vocations. It was during that period that the seeds of The Big Self School were sown.
To make them sprout, however, I had to recover from burnout first. Feeling lower than ever, I couldn’t just do what I always did: “get myself together” and power through the crisis.
Discovering how to deal with failure, I realized that before I could start helping others, I needed to nurture myself. Here are five practices which helped me with that.
How To Deal With Failure: 5 Tips To Tap Into Your Big Self
To overcome failure means to grow from it. It’s not about patting yourself on the back, saying that “you’ll be fine,” and forgetting all about it.
Failure is an opportunity to transform. With these five practices, you can use it as a springboard to become your Big Self.
1. Practice solitude
Failure can show you where you’ve been listening to others instead of trusting yourself. People like to give advice and they often mean well. However, their insights are always subjective — and may not be suited for you.
To learn how to deal with failure, you need to pull back from others once in a while. You don’t necessarily have to become a lone wolf. But try to find pockets of time when you can hear your inner voice.
Have your morning coffee in solitude and without distractions. Come to a meeting five minutes early and use this time to check in with yourself. When you’re alone, be mindful. If you do that consistently, the voice of your Big Self will start transpiring.
2. Move your body
For a long time, I despised the word “exercise.” Whenever my husband suggested hiking or mountain biking together, I looked for excuses to avoid it.
It all changed when I reframed what “exercise” meant to me. Instead of treating it as a means to achieve a goal (e.g. lose weight), I started moving in ways that brought me joy in the moment.
Learning to enjoy exercise doesn’t just make you physically healthier. It also strengthens your mind-body connection. This way, you become more aware of your physical needs, such as thirst, hunger or need for sleep.
3. Try intermittent fasting
At 43, my doctor told me I had the heart of a 60-year old. My body was falling apart. Inflammation caused by stress was running amuck. I decided to give it a break — quite literally. I started intermittent fasting to have longer breaks from food.
In a way, the cells in your body are like a “garbage disposal.” As they turn the food you eat into energy, they also produce metabolic waste. When you don’t give your body enough time to clean it out, that waste compounds in the cells.
With intermittent fasting, you get a chance to get rid of the toxins. It’s recommended to fast at least 16 hours a day for full benefits. However, before deciding what’s best for you, please consult your doctor. This article is not meant to provide medical advice.
4. Find reasons to be grateful
The benefits of gratitude are backed by science. Focusing your mind on the positives improves your sleep, relationships, mental health, and more.
The simplest way to practice gratitude is by writing three things you’re thankful for every day. Decide when you’re going to do this: early morning or shortly before bed tends to work best. This way, you can integrate the gratitude habit into the morning or evening routine you already have.
By training your “gratitude muscle,” you’ll soon start noticing positive things effortlessly. This can change your perspective and reveal how to deal with failure by appreciating the lessons it brings.
5. Schedule sacred time with close ones
Humans are social animals. We thrive when we feel connected to others. However, a genuine connection requires you to be intentional about your relationships.
When I quit working for the startup, my family went into a stormy period. We had to sell our house and move kids to a different school. What kept us grounded throughout that shaky time were our sacred family dinners.
To strengthen bonds with loved ones in the middle of a crisis, secure non-negotiable time to spend together. Schedule it in advance and make it special. Treat it as a ritual that helps you find an element of stability in the midst of chaos.
Having a good meal together is one of the simplest ways to do it. Most people associate this experience with feelings of comfort, security and joy. These can help you deal with failure — be it a personal or professional one.
How To Transform Failure Into Success
“Before the truth sets you free, it tends to make you miserable.” — Richard Rohr
I learned a lot from my entrepreneurial journey. But without doubt, one of the biggest lessons was this:
Until you fall flat on your face, you can’t tap into your Big Self.
You often need to trip and fall to understand what’s important. To live a life true to yourself, you must first become disillusioned. And yes, this hurts.
But in the end, it’s worth it. Tapping into your Big Self is the ultimate success. It allows you to become whole and driven by your heart’s desire — instead of other people’s expectations.
When you fail big time, that’s usually an opening chapter of a greater journey. The only question is, are you ready to take the ride?