Failure is an event that is woven throughout the human experience. Some of the best success stories are the ones that follow a series of stumbles and falls along the journey before the hero finally reaches the goal.
Most of us have experienced some form of failure in our lifetime, yet it’s still something we fear, loathe and avoid at all costs. It’s this fear that drives us to avoid taking risks and living fully. Hiding in the shadow of failure often fosters a sense of hopelessness, uncertainty and self-doubt. Getting stuck in this mindset can bring your comeback story to a screeching halt before it’s even begun.
When I failed, I did it in a big way…
I’m no stranger to the struggles that come with failure. I experienced a string of epic setbacks when, within a 6-month period my marriage fell apart, I lost my home, the business I owned, my car, and my savings.
The situation became so desperate that before it was over, I was living with my kids in a friend’s spare bedroom, penniless, jobless, and ready to give up. Life had basically strapped on a pair of combat boots and marched relentlessly over me, leaving me bruised and broken.
I was so overwhelmed at the time that I couldn’t even fathom a future. For a while I was just focused on getting through life one hour at a time. The thought of challenging myself or trying anything new brought up feelings of intense anxiety. I dug myself into a mindset that held me back for almost 5 years. When I finally decided I was over being miserable, I discovered a few things that were holding me back. Once I figured those out, I was able to take steps to overcome my blocks once and for all and move forward.
The Things That Stood Between Me and My Comeback
- I Let Failure Become My Identity: Instead of seeing failure as something that happened in my life, I started associating it with who I was at my core. I literally saw myself as a failure and unworthy of deserving anything good in my life.
- I Played The Blame Game: I felt so beat up by the circumstances around my situation that I convinced myself the Universe was against me. I blamed the world for everything that went wrong. My disappointing circumstances couldn’t possibly be my fault, because I was no longer responsible for my life. I pointed toward others to explain why I had an awful job, for my isolation and for my suffering. I relinquished my power and allowed myself to be pushed along in any direction the current carried me.
- I Lost Perspective: Everywhere I turned felt like threatening forces were ready to pounce and everything I saw was colored through a lens of hopelessness. I began to believe there were no opportunities left for me. As a result, I felt incredibly lost and alone and I shut out the world, pulling back from people and relationships.
Getting Out of The Failure Zone – 3 Things to Make Your Comeback
Know You Are Not Your Failure: Failure is an event, not an identity. It took me a while to get this, but it made a huge difference in my motivation and confidence once I did.
- Be mindful of your words and thoughts. When you experience failure, it can be easy to sink into self-depreciation. If you catch yourself thinking “I’m a failure,” pause and reposition the thought to something more constructive like: “I had a setback,” “I made some mistakes, but I learned from them,” or “I had a stumble along the way, but it doesn’t make me a failure.”
- Allow time for acceptance. Give yourself an opportunity to feel and process the emotions around what happened. Gift yourself time to absorb the impact of the events on your life, but don’t get stuck there either. Understand, process, and move forward.
- Forgive yourself. We can become our worst enemy when we’re at our lowest and this is when It’s easy to turn frustration against yourself. Choose to be good to yourself. Treat yourself the way you would treat a good friend who had come through a loss: with compassion, empathy, and patience.
Honor Your Power: Failure can sap your power and leave you struggling for direction. Understand that you’re much stronger than you might think and that you have what it takes to make a solid comeback.
- Have a proactive plan to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. Understand failure is nearly always part of the journey to success and every person who succeeds at a high level has experienced at least one stumble along the way. See the event as a great teacher. Ask yourself “what did I learn from this and how can I use this experience to build my future?”
- Rely on your strengths. You have incredible strength and skills – you wouldn’t have gotten this far without them. List your strengths and how they have contributed to past wins because they will play a role in your next successful venture. Add perseverance, resilience, and courage to your list – you’ve come through some tough challenges and you will shine all the brighter for having done so.
- Get your mojo back. After experiencing failure there’s a good chance you’ll struggle with confidence. Part of that struggle may show up as a need for approval from others and fear of moving forward without it. Not everyone will approve of your dreams and that’s okay. Part of regaining your confidence is the ability to move forward no matter what others think. That doesn’t mean recklessly diving into the deep end without a plan. Be sure to set yourself up for success, but don’t feel a need for full consensus from everyone around you.
Open yourself up to new perspectives: Failure doesn’t have to be the end of your dreams. Shift your perspective and seek out experiences to get on the comeback trail. One of the biggest game-changers for me was returning to college for my master’s degree. The exposure to new people and ideas was life changing. I credit that one experience as a catalyst for huge leaps forward in my personal and professional life.
- Understand the impact failure can have on your life. Experiencing failure can leave you feeling like your goals are out of reach; it can kill motivation, inhibit creativity, and leave you afraid to make any moves. Understanding this allows you to catch yourself when doubt creeps in. Know that what you’re experiencing is normal and take steps to counteract negative feelings with positive action.
- Feed your mind a nutritious diet. Start influencing your point of view by exposing yourself to motivational, success-focused content that can seed your mind with positive encouragement and ideas. There are so many books, blogs and podcasts with all the support you could possibly need for your comeback. Strive to take in at least one piece of positive content every day.
- Engage in activities that connect you with other people. Get out to the gym, join a book club or connect with a motivational Facebook group. There are many places to get exposure to new people and perspectives.
Failure can absolutely knock you off balance and put your dreams on hold. Many people spend years or even decades struggling to come back from failure, but that’s not you.
Here’s the thing… Failure has an upside. When you’re working on your comeback, remember the positives that your experience with failure has given you:
- Failure allows you to appreciate success even more and you’ll be less likely to take that success for granted once you’ve overcome big challenges;
- Failure gives you an opportunity to adapt, setting you up for an even better outcome than your original plan may have given;
- Failure builds strength and resilience
Remember all those massively successful people who’ve failed before you and have gone on to be at the top of their game. Every time you pick yourself back up and respond with positive action, you’ll be following in the footsteps of the greats.