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Fixing our definitions: Failure

Wellbeing Jul 9, 2023

A bad grade, a missed deadline, a day lost doom-scrolling on TikTok. Academic satisfaction to be trending downwards since 2019 and while the pandemic has contributed, what role have we played? And more importantly, what can you do to fix that?

Failure is defined as a lack of success. We define what it means to us. In an academic context, however, failing doesn’t necessarily mean the stamp of a UG on your assessments. For most of us, it is not meeting our expectations. Failing for you could mean an B instead of an A or exercising less than you wanted. It is extremely easy to fail constantly, given that we set our own benchmarks of success sometimes unreasonably high. Although academically challenging yourself and defining your goals are important, it is challenging to draw the line of reasonability.

The most implementable way to stop failing is to set incremental, achievable targets that will close the gap between you and your goal. People love the concept of a clean break: we buy the yearly planner, and set a long list of goals in the new year but the truth is it takes time to develop new habits. If we set a lofty goal with insufficient time to achieve, we will inevitably fail. Examples are always easiest to understand: Say you got a D on your math test and are extremely disappointed. You have another one coming up in a month. To prevent feeling this way, you vow to study for 2 hours daily and get an A next time. It works for a few days until you lose your initial momentum and are back at square one. Exam day comes and your fate is doomed to repeat. However, you can set a smaller goal (of the effort, not the outcome). This time you tell yourself, "I will practice 5 questions a day and will revise the topic until I get it right." Setting smaller targets also reduces the friction of a daunting task.

A lot of us also have “starting troubles”. The responsible thing to do is often boring. So nudge yourself. Set reminders on your phone, create accountability by asking your friends/parents to check-in. You can even condition yourself to start by clearing your desk, putting the phone away and reading one page. Just one. Most times, we will inevitably land up continuing and get some work done. When you are working, start by isolating key weaknesses and working on them first. You will see a quicker improvement and leading to more confidence too!

Accept that failure is a part of life. It is perfectly alright to "fail". Don’t panic, because we know more that we think we do. Over time, de-stigmatising failure will reduce how stressed you are and help you perform better. And guess what, at the end of the day, failure is a part of the journey to success!


Sanchita Sekhar

AS level student. Passionate about economics and ethics