How to fail better and not spiral into anxiety every time you make an ass of yourself #happiness

Recently I screwed up big time at work and panicked. It’s been a while since I experienced such anxiety when your heart races, you get tunnel vision, beat up yourself endlessly and your mind is engaged into a negative thought loop, and you just can’t stop it. The worst part is that after talking to my boss I realised it was not a major catastrophe, but rather a minor hiccup which I should not have dwelled on for so long.

I was unpleasantly surprised and even shocked. Years of meditation and work on making myself calmer, more balanced, thought watching and filtering, working to attain peace and lightness of being – and I spiral into anxiety so easily and over so little? I was determined to never do it again so I created a one pager that summarises the key learnings about failing better and changing your mindset and that I can use next time anxiety rears its ugly head. Temp

First tip is to stop thinking you are special in some way or better than others – this is the root of your anxiety because ‘special’ people don’t fail – only idiots do. Tied to this is acceptance that you are an idiot. We all are. Once you accept that you will make fool of yourself, fail inevitably and often because you are an idiot, you remove pressure to be perfect which you can’t be. You have to stop thinking and being afraid of what ‘others’ think – research shows they don’t care. The ‘others’ are in your head – self imposed blinkers, artificial limits that you set for yourself. Accept the situation. Gain perspective (3 steps on above right), ask yourself what you learned from the experience and reframe it – reward yourself for failure or even try finding something funny or absurd about it. A neat trick is playing circus music in your head while anxiety loop unravels – helps silence the inner critic!

Rumination is that endless loop of negative anxious thoughts. Catch and stop them early – or rather let them pass without attaching a story – before physical symptoms catch on. Be easy on yourself – practice self compassion and shut up your inner critic early. Use the emergency list – write down top 5 failures and how you overcame, recovered and gained perspective on the event afterwards, use this list when anxiety hits again. Most importantly remember and believe – action beats inaction and if you don’t fail, you won’t achieve much in life. Now that’s a much scarier option that making an ass of yourself!

This post is based on multiple sources, most recent being Pressure Doesn’t Have to Turn into Stress by Nicholas Petrie (HBR). 

About nomadoftheuniverse

Nomad of the Universe, nobody special, Buddhist, student of Ram Dass. I write about happiness, meaning and spirituality. My book on Love Addiction is out on Amazon now.
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4 Responses to How to fail better and not spiral into anxiety every time you make an ass of yourself #happiness

  1. Great stuff, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    I love the ‘stop ruminating’ chart you’ve included. It can be so easy to get dragged into anxious thinking when things don’t go as planned, but you are so right when you say that we need to stop viewing ourselves as perfect, or wanting to be perfect. This is an illusion and we can only do our bests and grow and learn from our mistakes.

    I like you’re emergency action plan too. We have all survived things in the past and when compared to current worries, we know we can conquer the obstacles now facing us!

    Loving the content, keep doing what you’re doing 🙂

    PS – On a related note, I’m on the hunt for feedback for my new show The HERO Podcast! It’s all about creating healthy habit. The episode with Derek Doepker may be of interest to you where he discusses how to make lasting changes. You can check it out (and maybe leave a short review if you like) here:

    Liked by 1 person

  2. bearly says:

    And most importantly, you are not alone… A good friend can provide a healthy perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

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