How to Stay on Your Trajectory Even After a Failure

It might bump up against mindful notions of “be here now,” but where you’re going is more important than where you are now. Especially if you’re in college. Especially if you’re bouncing back from a failure.

The worst f-word in college, failure, can actually be instructive. Forbes lays out “Five Things To Do When You Encounter Failure.” [i] These five resemble the Focus Collegiate approach to intentional change.

  1. Stay positive. “Your mental state is important for you to pick yourself up after failing…how you respond to failure will determine your success or failure in life.”

    We recognize that staying positive is not always possible. Instead of simply staying positive, we suggest adopting a growth mindset. Having a growth mindset means believing that a person’s abilities can be improved through effort, learning, and persistence. A growth mindset is healthy way to face challenges, process failure, and adapt and evolve as a result.
  2. Appreciate the people around you. “If you have worked with a team, this is the time to appreciate them.”

    At Focus Collegiate this means social integration and resonant relationships—like those we develop with our students. Emerging findings in neuroscience underscore that working collaboratively in supportive, trust-based relationships activates parts of the brain associated with openness to new ideas and social orientation to others. 
  3. Analyze the situation. “Take a careful look at the situation. You can either do this on your own or look for an expert who can help you carefully analyze the situation and highlight mistakes so that the failure won’t occur again.”

    In our work with students, this step is about increasing self-awareness. Together we weigh the difference between the student’s personal reality and their vision for the future to determine gaps and next steps. This reality informs the amount and type of support each student receives. This is how we frame the Learning Agenda and move forward.
  4. Identify your mistakes. “When you know the mistakes you made, you can learn how to avoid them in the future. Once you identify mistakes, sincerely work on avoiding or fixing them. When you are afraid of making mistakes, you will never try something different.”

    Again, self-awareness is key.
  5. Strategize and try again. “The never-give-up spirit is the winning spirit. Keep trying until you get it right. Every time you try, you get better.”

    Developing new behaviors, thoughts, or perceptions takes time and practice. Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., developer of the mindset theory, calls this the power of “Yet.” She explains that by reframing mistakes as learning opportunities, instead of as final results, we build the confidence to continue learning — “yet” provides a path to the future.

In other words, failure can influence your trajectory in positive ways by suggesting habits that can help or hinder progress. Again, self-awareness is essential here. Our work with students bolsters their self-awareness in supportive, non-judgmental ways. Together we create, structure, and schedule new habits that make sense to the individual and their trajectory.

James Clear describes the relationship between such habits and a person’s trajectory in Atomic Habits:

“It doesn’t matter how successful or unsuccessful you are right now. What matters is whether your habits are putting you on the path toward success. You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results. If you’re a millionaire but you spend more than you earn each month, then you’re on a bad trajectory; if your spending habits don’t change, it’s not going to end well. Conversely, if you’re broke, but you save more than you spend every month, then you’re on the path toward financial freedom—even if you’re moving slower than you’d like.”

If your student is struggling, contact us now for January enrollment. We know how to help students create new habits that get them back on their trajectory to lasting positive change.