Handle failures, fixed and growth mindset, learned helplessness, protect the downsides

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How to handle failures

Life is risky. You will inevitably fail at some point in your life. The question is not about how not to fail. Instead, it's about how to make failing meaningful.

Failures can only be meaningful when you learn lessons and gain insights from them. To learn from failures, you need three things:

  1. Know that you can recover from it.
  2. Detach the negative outcome from your identity.
  3. Frame the failure correctly and come up with solutions.

Fixed and growth mindset

In the book Mindset, the American renowned psychologist introduce the concept of fixed mindset and growth mindset.

People with fixed mindset struggle to learn from failures. They believe that intelligence and ability are fixed. We are either born to be smart, or we are born to be dumb. We are either capable of achieving great things, or we are not.

People with growth mindset have a different perspective. They think that intelligence and ability are not fixed and that they can be improved. We are born who we are and have the ability to shape who we want to become.

The growth mindset pushes people to learn and improve. They are open to challenges, failures, and feedback because that is how they learn. It's not that they won't feel down when things go bad. But they don't let an outcome define them.

Learned helplessness

The opposite of learning from your failure is to become learned helplessness. It is a mental state that occurs after we've gone through unpleasant and stressful situations repeatedly.

When a person is learned helplessness, he comes to believe that there's nothing he can do to change the situation. He gives up trying even when opportunities to change are available and accessible.

Learned helplessness comes down to 3Ps—when a person thinks that the problem is:

  1. Permanent. When a problem (or failure) is permanent, nothing will change.
  2. Personal. Instead of seeing the circumstances objectively, the problem becomes a part of the identity.
  3. Pervasive. Without proper framing, a problem in one life area gets perceived as a problem in all areas. Oh no, all is doomed!

Protect the downsides

The solution is to always adopt the growth mindset and implement the three steps when facing failure.

However, an even better solution is to utilize mental models (around the three steps) to make better decisions:

  1. Never bet what you can't effort to lose so you know you can always recover from mistakes and failures.
  2. Invest in other areas of your life, such as health, relationships, and hobbies—so your work doesn't define you. Also, they are good support systems during tough times.
  3. Create a routine to reflect and review regularly. Preferably start journaling (getting your thoughts on paper) because getting them out of your head helps with framing.

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