Fallibility Antidotes

Dr. Seuss wrote a wonderful book called Oh, the Places You'll Go. It essentially says that you will go far, except when you don't, because sometimes you won't. And people will really like you, except when they don't, because sometimes they won't. There is an art to failing without allowing it to erode self-esteem. The following are some helpful principles:

• Talk or write about it. Putting words down on paper helps to release the feeling of failure, provides perspective, and permits time to make sense of what happened.

• Accurately assign responsibility. Accept appropriate responsibility. Acknowledge where you were wrong or mistaken. Also acknowledge extenuating circumstances or contributing factors. ("This was a very difficult situation. I was inexperienced, tired, under pressure to make a quick decision.")

• Rate behavior, not the core. People are too complex for simplistic labels such as "loser." They are more than their mistakes. Reject behaviors, but accept people.

• Replace the word failure with words such as setback, mistake, falling short, or learning experience.

• View the fallible self with compassion and acceptance. Fallible does not mean worthless.

• Accept the outcome, but maintain an optimistic focus. View the mistake as a building block, not a stumbling block. You might think, "Okay, it happened. Now, what have I learned? What behaviors will I change in the future?"

• Realize that ascent is difficult. It takes repeated efforts. Since fallibility is an inescapable aspect of life, expect slips from time to time.

• Take your knocks and move on. Most people will forget about it. You might as well, too.

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