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Are Past Failures Ruling Your Life? Here Are 5 Practical Strategies To Help You Take Control

Are Past Failures Ruling Your Life? Here Are 5 Practical Strategies To Help You Take Control

“You’re on your way now but this is no time to dwell on how far you’ve come. You’re in a fight against an opponent you can’t see, but oh you can feel him on your heels, can’t ya? Feel ’em breathing down your neck. You know what that is? That’s you. Your fears, your doubts and insecurities all lined up like a firing squad ready to shoot you out the sky.” — Nike Rise & Shine Motivational Video.

I have failed so many times in my life that I have lost count. Some of my past failures have been pretty epic and some not so bad. I don’t care what anyone says when you fail, it sucks. Even though your friends and family support and encourage you, at the end of the day you are the only one who deals with the emotions and feelings that are associated with defeat and failure.

Your past failures can control how you live your life in the present and in the future. I know this from experience. I have missed taking opportunities in my life because my past failures and my self-limiting beliefs had control of my thinking. As a result, my decisions tended to lean toward choosing the easy option because I was too scared to step out of my comfort zone and risk failing. I also became an expert at convincing myself that I was making the “right decision” and suppressing those thoughts that were challenging me to be more courageous.

It took the very painful experience of losing three jobs over a period of 18 months for me to finally realise that if I kept doing the same things in my life, I would keep getting the same results. I had to make some changes and take control of my life so that I could live a life that was flourishing, rather than languishing for the rest of my life in frustration, disappointment, and fear.

Overcoming your past failures and the fears that are hidden deep within you is hard work. You would think that after losing my first job, I would have taken the opportunity to reflect and and think about what I really wanted to do with my life. I didn’t do this because I was so consumed by my fear of rejection and feeling like a failure that I took the first job that was offered to me. The money was good, and as it had taken me nearly six months to get a job, I believed I had no other option. I had to take this job or I would be even more of a failure in life.

When I walked into the office on my first day of work of my second job, I knew I had made a mistake. However, I convinced myself that it was the right decision because the money was good and I should be grateful. This was a bad mistake because it was the wrong job for me, and as a result, I didn’t last long there.

When I lost my second job, I once again became consumed by my fears of failure. Not only did I have to deal with feelings of worthlessness and rejection, I also was in a panic over financial uncertainty.

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There were many nights I would lie in bed wondering why me? Why is this happening to me?

I would look at friends and other people’s lives and think why can’t I have a life like theirs? Why can’t I be successful like them? What am I doing wrong? As I am writing this, I am really feeling uncomfortable as I can so clearly see how much control my fear and past failures had over me. At the time, I didn’t recognise it and I was miserable.

Trying to pick myself up to go get a third job was really hard. I just wanted to crawl away and hide from the world. Deep down, however, I knew that if I gave in my life would get worse, not better. I wanted my life to get better and I wanted to feel better about myself. I decided that I had no other choice — I had a family to support and I had to keep going.

I was far more cautious about my third job and I didn’t rush into it despite the fact it took me seven months to get the job. I was keen to keep it long term, however this was not to be. Six months into my job, the organisation decided to restructure and again I was told I had no job.

It was here that I got angry and realised that I truly had to sort myself out. To survive the three job losses, I had to take control of my life and that meant that I had to learn how to survive and thrive on the rollercoaster ride of life.

These 5 strategies that I am sharing with you helped me take control of my life and better manage my fears, and there were many, around failure.

This didn’t mean that I stopped failing in life, because I still fail. I am, however, more resilient and able to bounce back from failure a lot quicker than in the past. I now accept and understand that failure is an important part of life’s journey.

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The key to surviving and thriving in life is learning how to manage and move on from the past failures and setbacks you face in life. Hopefully, these five strategies will help you take control of your life so that you can live the life you desire.

1. Start A Failure Journal

This is a very pragmatic and logical way to explore the reasons for your past failures. It is important to learn from your past failures, and you need to find out if there are any trends and patterns that sit behind them.

When I started my failure journal, I identified five fears I had surrounding failure and dutifully wrote them in my journal. As time when on and I learned more about myself, I discovered that I had a lot more fears than I realised. I actually stopped writing these fears down when I reached 20!

Some of the fears I had were the fear of success, the fear of embarrassment, the fear of rejection, the fear of being judged, the fear of vulnerability, and the list goes on. Identifying your fears is key to understanding and dealing with your past failures. While your fears exist, your past failures are still in control of you.

The journal enables you to to acknowledge your fears and your past failures, learn from them, and then move on toward a new future of embracing new opportunities.

Here are three questions that I found to be really helpful when it came to acknowledging my failures and working out how to take control of my life:

  • What did I do well?
  • What went wrong?
  • What could I have done to improve the situation?.

These three questions helped me look at the failures in a more positive light because I knew the only way I could move forward in life was to understand why these failures had so much influence over me and what lessons I needed to learn from them. Once I understood this, all my past failures began to slowly lose their control over my life.

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2. Use Your Power Of Choice

Learn how to use your power of choice so that you can make informed decisions about your life. Using your power of choice is important to building your resilience and to maintaining a hopeful and positive attitude about life.

You are the only one who has control of how you respond to life’s challenging events. Your power of choice is a gift that enables you to live the life you desire. It does not protect you from life events, but it does empower you to decide how you respond and deal with life’s challenges.

When I have to make a tough decision about my life, I never think about the decision as a final decision. I try to make a decision based on what I believe to be right at the time. However, if this decision turns out not to be what I expected, then my power of choice enables me to choose to make another decision.

What happens for many of us is that once we make a decision we tend to stick with it even if we know we have made the wrong decision. We hang in there because we keep hoping it will get better — of course, it never does.

Your power of choice is your secret weapon to managing the rollercoaster ride of life — the joy, the pain, the sadness, the scary, and all the future mistakes you will no doubt make. Use your power of choice to take control of your life.

3. Always Plan For The Unexpected

Accept that the unexpected will happen — it is a given. Learn how to manage the risk in in your life by asking these four key questions:

  • What is the worst thing that could happen?
  • If it did happen, would you be able to deal with it?
  • How would you deal with it?
  • Would your life be better if you gave up on your goal?

4. Learn About The Science Of Failure

This strategy had the most impact on me, in that I gained a better understanding of how much control and influence my subconscious mind has over my thoughts and actions. I read lots of books and listened to many Ted Talks to learn how to better manage my thoughts and behaviour patterns surrounding my past and anticipated future failures.

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Kathryn Schultz’s book Being Wrong and her Ted Talk “On Being Wrong,” was really powerful for me in learning how to admit and accept being wrong. Accepting that there are times in my life where I have been wrong enabled me to accept my past failures and move forward in my life.

Sometimes, failure can mean that we may be on the wrong path and we may need to make a detour. I realised that quitting doesn’t always mean I was failing. The key is knowing when to quit (not failing) and then moving on to something different and better.

5. Do Whatever It Takes To Build Your Resilience and Courage – Never Stop!

To face your past failures and deal with them is hard work, and you need to be mentally tough and committed to making the personal changes you need to make.

Your resilience and courage are your secret weapons — it is these two things in your life that will get you through the challenges, the pain, and the reality of life.

You will want to give up, and that’s OK. You will find it hard, and that’s OK. You will make mistakes, and that’s OK. You will fail, and that’s OK. Some days you will feel like you are in control and some days you will feel like you have no control — that’s OK.

Life will never be what you expect it to be. However, it is only you that can control how you react to the challenging events in your life.

Your resilience and courage will keep you strong and committed to living a life you deserve, where you are not controlled by your past failures.

Some strategies I use to keep me resilient and courageous are:

  • I surround myself with people who support me, no matter what
  • I work hard to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle through exercise and healthy eating. Physical wellbeing is key to maintaining my mental resilience and a positive attitude in my life
  • I’ve completed a number of courses on mindfulness. I had lost faith in me and I didn’t trust myself. As a result of attending these courses, I have learned how to listen to my intuition and to trust and believe in me. The more self belief I had, the less control my past failures had over my life.

Failure is a part of everyone’s life. Nobody escapes failure. The key to surviving failure and moving forward in life is having tools and strategies to help you. I hope that these five strategies have helped you to choose to take control of your past failures so that you can live a fulfilled and joyous life.

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Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

11 Things Overachievers Do Differently

11 Things Overachievers Do Differently

We all know some overachievers: supermoms who manage to get online degrees between cleaning, cooking, and taking kids to practice; students who write 10-page papers when the directions call for 4; managers whose resumes look more like pages from the Guinness book of Records.

How do they do it all? How is it possible that one person can graduate at the top of their class, found an orphanage in India, run 30k marathons, write a best-selling book, travel all over the world and learn to speak Mandarin Chinese while having a full-time job?

What’s the secret of an overachiever? Here’re 11 things overachievers do differently that you can learn from.

1. They Know How to Manage Their Time

It’s pretty simple actually – you can never become an overachiever if you don’t know how to organize your time efficiently.

The great thing is that overachievers are ready to share their knowledge and time management talent with the rest of the world. Read The 4-Hour Workweek or The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

2. They Don’t Spend Hours Watching TV or Playing Computer Games

Mostly because they have better things to do, like exercising, reading, spending an evening with their family or volunteering to work in the local soup kitchen. Their philosophy is simple – the world is full of wonderful things to try, explore and experience. Watching TV is not one of them.

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3. They Are Obsessed With Perfection

Imagine Steve Jobs’ work approach and you’ll understand the level of perfection and painfully high standards that overachievers set for themselves and those around them. Often it pays off (especially if they focus on just one domain). But sometimes compulsive over-striving turns into a sure-fire road to disappointments and unfinished tasks.

Learn how to strike a balance: How Not to Let Perfectionism Secretly Screw You Up

4. They Know How To Inspire

Overachievers learn quickly that it is much easier to achieve goals through collaboration (and especially delegation). So they know how to inspire, encourage, persuade and motivate people around them. Even though they often drive their team crazy with their stubbornness and perfectionism, people quickly follow under the spell of their enthusiasm and greater vision.

Learn these 10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively.

5. They Set Clear Goals

The term “overachiever” itself implies that they know how to achieve goals. That is kind of hard to do if your goals are vague, unclear and lack specific deadline, which is why overachievers educate themselves, read goal-setting books, and think about the best way to approach a new task.

Although, it’s worth mentioning that overachievers usually use their time management and goal-setting skills towards competitive, “I want to kick butt” type of goals rather than self-improvement, mastery goals.

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Take a look at these tips to help you set clearer goals: What Are SMART Goals (And How to Use Them to Become Successful)

6. They Are Organized

It’s hard to imagine a disorganized overachiever, isn’t it? Their great organizational and planning skills usually serve three main purposes: keeping track of time, keeping track of progress and keeping track of achievements.

This hasn’t been confirmed by scientific research yet, but overachievers might actually get a “runner’s high” from crossing tasks off their to-do lists, and making new to-do lists.

Here’s How to Organize Your Life: 10 Habits of Really Organized People

7. They Try to Avoid Failure at All Costs

Some psychologists believe that overachievers place their self-worth on their competence, driven by an underlying fear of failure. Rather than setting and striving for goals based on a pure desire to achieve, their core motivation becomes avoiding failure. This may explain the fact that overachiever beat themselves up for even little setbacks and seemingly-insignificant mistakes.

But be aware that having a strong fear of failure can wrek havoc your productivity. So the best thing to do? Learn to conquer the fear: Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Conquer It)

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8. They Love Awards

Who doesn’t love them, right? True enough, but unlike most people who like to feel acknowledged and appreciated for their efforts, overachievers are bent on collecting ‘awards’, be it university degrees, spelling bee prizes or unusual destinations.

While loving awares isn’t bad, it’s even better if you’re driven by internal motivation instead of external ones which could be quite uncontrolable or unstable: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It).

9. They Don’t Understand the Concept of Work Hours

Don’t get surprised if you receive a work-related email anywhere between 8 p.m. and midnight. It’s something overachievers usually do and you weren’t the only one. At least 20 more emails have been sent during these hours to other people. The concepts of over-achieving and working overtime usually go hand in hand.

The downside of this is an imbalnced life, which may need to problems in other aspects of life including health and relationships. A better way is to Achieve a Realistic Work Life Balance.

10. They Rest

Overachievers might often be labeled as “workaholics”, because they often ignore bodily signs of hunger, fatigue and even a full bladder, hoping to finish just one last little part. This doesn’t mean that overachievers don’t know how to disconnect and relax.

True that they tend to work in the highest gear, but they also have enough sense to give themselves time to rest and recharge. Of course, they do it in their own overachieving way, preferring climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or hiking through the Amazon jungle to lazing on the beach.

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11. Overachievers Continuously Educate Themselves

A great quality that most overachievers have is the hunger for knowledge. They surround themselves with bright people. They know how to listen, and most importantly, they get tons of mentoring.

Despite the fact that overachievers want to excel at everything they set their minds on, they are humble enough to admit that to get on top of their game, they need help. And they are willing to pay someone to push, coach and guide them.

You too can learn How to Create a Habit of Continuous Learning for a Better You.

More Tips to Help You Achieve Success

Featured photo credit: Nghia Le via unsplash.com

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