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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.

More by this author

Kathryn Sandford

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

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

More Resources About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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