How to Bounce Back From Defeat Like a Man
We’ve all been there before and experienced it in one way or another: making a mistake, getting rejected and failing. It hurts and no one likes it. We feel embarrassed, ashamed and unwanted. It’s a tough position to be in and often occurs when we least expect it, resulting in an emotional reaction. Let’s remember defeat literally happens to everyone – YOU’RE NOT ALONE. Recognizing this is the first step for preparing yourself from future blows and developing how to bounce back from defeat like a man.
Breaking it Down
What constitutes “defeat”? Many think defeat is synonymous with mistake, rejection or failure, and often use it interchangeably. While they all share commonalities and can certainly be used interchangeably, they are distinct from one another.
A mistake is typically a momentary mishap or point of confusion leading to a careless blunder. I stress this point because we often get down on ourselves for making a simple mistake when we’re prone to making incorrect calls all the time. While mistakes do vary in severity, most mistakes are common, everyday blunders and won’t even impact you in a day or two! So the next time you make a mistake, ask yourself “will I remember this two days from now?” Chances are, no. Rather than let it bother you, understand what went wrong in the process so you don’t make the same mistake twice and simply brush off the incident.
Rejection comes when someone or something says no to you. By definition, rejection comes from another’s perception that something isn’t adequate for their purposes. It’s completely independent of what you may want and simply cannot be controlled by your efforts alone. You could do everything “right” and still get rejected due to a difference in preference between parties.
How do you bounce back from rejection with poise? After all, getting rejected can often be a blow to our egos and elicit feelings of being unwanted or cast aside. It’s very easy and tempting to stick it to them or let it shake your confidence. Remember, rejection is really just a difference in opinions. Would you let someone’s subjective opinion get to you and derail your confidence? Absolutely not! Just because someone or something didn’t see eye to eye with you doesn’t mean you’re wrong or unwanted, it’s only one opinion. Move on! With over 320 million people living in the United States, there are plenty of others out there that may agree with you. From a pure numbers perspective, don’t let one out of 320 million determine how you feel and how you live your life!
Failure is a little different than the other two mentioned above. It’s defined as the lack of success and has the ability to be completely subjective and individualized depending on how we interpret “success”. Think about it, your definition of success will be different than mine so naturally, the lack of success, or failure, will differ. Regardless of how you define failure, chances are you’ve spent time and energy on something under the belief your efforts will pay off. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case. Life has a strange way of hitting us with a dose of reality when we least expect it. We then rush to the conclusion that our efforts were wasted, we weren’t good enough and give up. No! Let’s re-frame this thinking.
First and foremost, don’t discredit all the work you’ve done and the skills acquired leading up to this point. Even if it’s just “experience”, there’s value in that. In life, failure is necessary. It’s what allows us to take risks and push ourselves out of our comfort zones, in order to achieve greatness. ALL of the most successful people have all failed. Instead, leverage failure as a stepping stone and an opportunity to learn (which we get into below). We pay for education don’t we? Consider failure your free lesson.
What do all three of these have in common? Aside from the ability to make us feel awful, we must remember there’s usually external factors contributing to the outcome that are simply out of our control. Understand these things happen and look for ways to learn from it. It’s how quickly we bounce back from defeat that will empower us to become a better man. Let’s explore some actionable steps the next time you’re in a position of defeat to help you bounce back quicker.
The most important step after a mistake, rejection or failure is to cool off. Go out for a walk, meditate or go to the gym. Do something, anything, to take your mind off of what just happened. As humans, we have a tendency to make irrational decisions when we’re emotionally unstable. The last thing you want to do is to create more trouble for yourself in a state of distress. How often do you hear of someone making a smart decision when they’re upset? It’ll take a little self-control and mental awareness, but take a moment and do yourself this favor the next time you’re in this position.
It may be as easy as taking a few deep breaths and walking away. Others may require additional steps, such as meditation or a quick jog to compartmentalize what occurred. There’s nothing wrong with that. We all handle our emotions differently depending on the severity of the situation!
Remind yourself, what happened, happened. You can’t change the past and getting upset won’t do anything; if anything, it exacerbates the situation. Instead, focus your efforts on what’s next and how you can improve the situation.
Discover Your Learning Opportunity
One of the easiest ways to change the outcome of any situation is to change your perspective. Altering your perception is one of the fundamental principles to managing how you feel and ultimately your happiness. Change your perspective, discover your learning opportunity and how you can grow as a person from the defeat. What you can learn from each situation may not always be apparent nor come immediately; however, be patient. There’s always something we can learn from defeat. It may require us to dig deep in order to really find the positive.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask Why
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Seriously, what do you have to lose? Chances are someone or something has already turned you down, which means their intention was to remove you, your idea, presence, etc. from the equation (talk about harsh!). Look, there are really only two possible outcomes when asking this question:
- They say no or simply don’t respond. Okay, so what? That’s exactly what would have happened had you not asked in the first place! The outcome is the same, you’re in no better or worse position than before. Simply pick up your things and move on.
- You receive constructive feedback, which can be extremely valuable down the road. Feedback from someone else incorporates their own views, experiences and knowledge, serving as a different angle to learn from. The challenge with soliciting feedback is it’s intimidating. You place yourself in a vulnerable position and open yourself up to criticism. Getting over this hump requires you to remain objective and take everything with a grain of salt. Again, this is only one person’s opinion, so don’t sweat it. Assess their feedback, pick out what you want and apply it to your future. It may be a scary thought to ask the person who just rejected you for feedback but the perspective and what you stand to gain from it makes asking worthwhile.
Refine Your Approach
Now that you’ve had a moment to reflect and learn from the situation, it’s time to make use of it all and refine your game plan:
- Put together a quick list of what worked. Think about the steps you took that got you to where you are. Can you replicate these? If so, great. If not, write down what didn’t work and skip to #3
- Put together a similar list of what didn’t work. Keep this high-level for now and be sure to incorporate any feedback you received
- Assess your weak points and strengths that can’t be replicated. Jot down a few tangible ways you can improve on them
- Go on with living your life with these refinements in place
For example, let’s say you didn’t get the job and the feedback you received from the hiring manager was they were looking for someone with more web design experience.
- What worked: Got to the final interview round (Keep the application process more or less the same)
- High-level weak point: Lack of web design experience
- Tangible steps forward: Attend night courses to get more familiar with web design, or create a personal website to demonstrate experience. Alternatively, this experience may elicit that the goal you were working towards is simply not for you.
- Go back on the job market
Look, we progress in life and move forward by by making mistakes, getting rejected and failing! It’s what allows us to get out of our comfort zones and to place our best efforts forth, despite not knowing what the outcome will be. Don’t be afraid to fall short. When you do, embrace it with open arms.