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How To Cope With Failure

As part of HC Durham’s Ambition week, I’m going to be talking about something a little different. Failure. It’s a word that terrifies a lot of us. The fear surrounding it can cause us to overwork and worry, until our health, both mental and physical, deteriorates.

Being in the ‘Durham bubble’, we may find ourselves surrounded by people who are more ambitious and hard-working than we’ve ever been before. While this can be motivating, it can also lead us to compare ourselves to others and place increased pressure on ourselves to succeed at whatever we do, in order to avoid failure at all costs.

As summative season is once again fast approaching, I’m focusing on our attitudes to failure at university and below are my top tips on how to deal with not always achieving your goals.

Focus on yourself

During my time at Durham so far, I have noticed the striking determination among my course mates to not only succeed, but to do better in each assignment than the last – this determination is contagious.

Although, one of the worst things we can do to ourselves is compare ourselves to others. It controls our minds and can make us feel jealous and insecure, which leads to negative effects on our mental health.

It can also influence us to set goals for ourselves based on other people, rather than specifying them to our own strengths and abilities.

The liberation of our mind comes when we stop looking around us and focus on ourselves instead. By considering each exam or essay you do as an individual endeavour, where your goal is to benefit you alone, you become freed from the constant comparisons to others. As a result, you may find yourself more content with the results you get back in the future.

Talk about it

It is extremely beneficial to talk to people when you are disappointed about not achieving a goal. You may not realise it but you are not alone. There are so many people in the same boat as you, and even though it may seem like everyone has got their life together, it really is not the case.

Ask to meet up with someone from your course for coffee and tell them what you’re struggling with. Contact your lecturer or your academic advisor for advice on how to do better next time. Chat to a housemate studying something completely different. Call a family member or talk to someone at college.

There is so much support available and no problem is too big or too small. Talking to someone about how you feel can be frightening but ultimately, it is refreshing and reassuring to know that you don’t have to deal with it by yourself. So, take a deep breath and reach out to others, as they may be in exactly the same position as you.

It’s OK if you didn’t get the mark you wanted

I know the feeling of disappointment that takes over you when you get a paper back and didn’t get the mark you were hoping for. Although, it’s important to remember that not obtaining your desired mark does not signify failure. It’s all about perspective. Remember that what you might consider to be a poor result may be a huge success for someone else.

Moreover, rather than letting your result upset you, use it as a tool for improvement. Listen to the feedback from your tutors and learn from your mistakes. Remember that everyone needs to practice in order to improve. Albert Einstein said, “a person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” Therefore, be courageous in the fact that you are living out of your comfort zone and are on the pathway to achieving your goals.

The most you can do is your best

Finally, in a society where we are being driven to have the best of everything, it is important to recognise that the only thing we can count on to work towards our goals is our own personal best. If we aim to try our best at whatever we do, then we will always succeed no matter what result we get.





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