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The 30-Sec Change: Categorize Your Failures
Every time something fails in our lives, that voice in our heads wails out, "This failed! I'm a failure!" One day, we may just stop trying. Stanford University professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans have come up with a new approach in their book, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life. To deal with setbacks, we need to understand that there are different kinds—each with its own respective coping strategy. First, they write, figure out whether the failure is a screwup ("a simple mistake about something you normally get right"), a weakness ("a mistake that you make over and over") or a growth opportunity ("a failure that didn't have to happen").

With a screwup, they write, we can apologize to all involved and move on. With a weakness, we're probably aware of the issue and have tried to fix it, so our best strategy at this point may be to avoid "the situations that prompt them" in the future. With a growth opportunity, however, you need to really sit down and pay attention. Since this failure didn't have to happen, why did it? What can you do next time? Growth opportunities are the failures we need to pay attention to, write the authors, rather than getting distracted by the other two types. So, the next time you blow a first date or present all the wrong numbers at the meeting, override that voice in your head and ask yourself calmly, "What kind of failure is this?" Answer, apply the solution and repeat as needed. (Hint: Double-check your math, and don't take your blind date to a family reunion).