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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 May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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