The good news is that no matter how big the failure, others have failed even more miserably. Some failures have led to people no longer being alive and able to try again. Not us. We are still alive, and the possibility for repair and future success is still within reach, as Rebbe Nachman of Breslov said, “If you believe you can damage, then believe you can repair.”
10 ways to get back in the game:
1. Get an unbiased assessment. If you think you are headed for failure, e.g., in your career, financial investments, or relationships, get impartial advice. Often, we either stay too long in a failing situation or bail out when things could still have been salvaged. Do not wait until it is too late; as soon as you sense things are going awry, get help. Ask a wise person whether to stay and try to make things work, or to leave. If you are advised to leave, discuss how you can do so in the best way possible, cushioning the blow for yourself and others.
2. Praise yourself for trying. Usually after failing, we berate and harshly criticize ourselves. Do not fall into this trap; it will only delay your comeback. After repairing the damage from a failure as best you can, forgive yourself and give yourself credit for trying. Some people rarely fail. They also rarely try new things. Instead, they stay stuck in their comfort zone, living a narrow existence and only fulfilling a sliver of their potential. You on the other hand were courageous, and stepped out into the unknown. This time it did not work out as planned, but with God’s help, the next time will go better and you will reap the rewards of your efforts. (For more on forgiving yourself, see “Discover Your Inner Peace.”)
3. Believe in yourself. You experienced a failure, but you are not a failure. Believe you can succeed, so you will be motivated to keep trying. No matter how far you have fallen or the difficulties you face, others have overcome even more challenging situations. Read their stories for inspiration. Also make a list of your past successes and strengths. Within you are the tools you need to overcome your difficulties. You have what it takes to succeed. Just as God has helped others, He will help you. Perhaps not in the way you anticipate, but He will be with you, strengthening and supporting you. With God’s help, you can do it!
4. Short term loss, long term gain. You think you failed because you did not meet your definition of success. But what if the barometer of success in this situation, was just getting through it? By that definition you succeeded. People often over focus on results and ask, “Did it work out the way I expected?” If yes, then they succeeded. If not, then they failed. With humility we realize it is arrogant to think things must go as we expected for us to succeed. Only God knows what a truly successful outcome is – one that is for our ultimate benefit. With faith we believe that God guides our lives for our highest good; our failures and difficulties are steppingstones leading us to where we need to go. Sometimes, we can see in hindsight how we benefited from what we thought was a failure, as the saying goes, “Rejection is God’s protection.”
5. You did not fail, you learned. Failures can teach us important lessons. Learn from your failures and transform them into valuable learning experiences. A key lesson we learn from failure is that we can survive it. Knowing you can handle failure will enable you to take judicious risks which are often the path to success. Make a list of lessons you learned from the experience and what you will do differently in the future. In addition, experiencing a failure can be traumatic and you may find it helpful to write in a journal about the experience to help you process it.
6. Do the math. From a mathematical perspective, each loss is a negative and each success is a positive. Even if you experience many losses, as long as the sum of your successes outweighs your losses, you come out ahead. For example, let’s say you went on multiple job interviews, and got many rejections and only one offer, but that offer lead to a fulfilling career. Your gain from that interview far outweighed your losses. This is why the best response to failure, even multiple failures, is to keep trying until you succeed.
7. Admitting failure is the first step to success. Many people refuse to admit they were wrong. They are obstinate and are either in denial or too embarrassed to admit they were mistaken. But failure is not shameful; no one is perfect. The possibility of failure is built into life. It makes life challenging and exciting, instead of undemanding and boring. The bitter taste of defeat makes future victory all the more sweet. By realizing you failed, you show humility and admit that what you were doing was not working. Once you realize that, you have set the foundation upon which to build future successes. Start by praying to God, asking others for help and restrategizing.
8. Pray. Some people take full credit for their successes and failures, leaving God out of the picture. In truth, just as our successes come from God, so do our failures (barring acts we knew were wrong). If you did your best and things did not turn out as expected, rest assured that the outcome was God’s will for your ultimate benefit. Ask Him to help you learn, grow from the experience and succeed next time. Also tell God about your pain and your options moving forward. You might be surprised how much lighter you feel afterward and the more clarity you possess.
9. Ask for help. Some people refuse to ask for help. They insist they can figure it out themselves. When we are humble, we realize we have a lot to learn, even in areas where we think we are experts. Ethics of the Fathers teaches (4:1), “Who is wise? He who learns from everyone.” King Solomon said (Proverbs 12:15), “The way of the fool is correct in his own eyes, but he who is wise listens to advice.” Sometimes, we try to reinvent the wheel. While each situation is unique, most likely others before you have dealt with a similar situation and have tried various methods. Which methods have been successful? Find out and enlist someone wise with life experience to mentor you.
10. Restrategize. As the saying goes, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” If what you have been doing is not working, step back. Make sure the goal you are working toward is still realistic. If not, adjust your goal. Then brainstorm ways of reaching that goal. Choose which path you think is most likely to lead to success. Once you have chosen your destination and how you plan to get there, break down the journey into mini steps. What is the first step and when will you commit to taking it? Enlist the help of others, who will check in with you regularly, to encourage you and help you stay the course. See, “Clarity: 8 Ways to Get More of It.”
Let go of the past and begin again with a fresh start. You are now wiser and better prepared to overcome your challenges than ever before. The only person that can hold you back from pursuing your goals is yourself. Be tenacious. Refuse to give up. Stay focused on your goal and with God’s help, you will achieve it. Whether a failure is the end of a tragic tale or the beginning of a new chapter detailing your triumphant comeback, is up to you. You are the author of your life. Turn a past failure into a temporary setback you will overcome. Get back in the game. It is the only way to win.
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