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10 Critical Lessons To Learn When You Feel Like a Failure

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10 Critical Lessons To Learn When You Feel Like a Failure

They write songs, books, inspirational quotes, and movies about it, but they always talk about failure in the past tense, like it’s somehow okay to discuss once we have transcended, made meaning, and are back on the come up. News flash—failure sucks. When you feel like you have failed in life, it can be difficult to identify the romantic, poetic, or meaningful messages we are intended to learn, mostly because we are too angry or broken-hearted to look for them.

Feeling like a failure in life is energy-consuming and takes many forms. The only guarantee in life is that we will, in fact, fail. We will do so repeatedly, and when failures compound, it can feel like the earth is crumbling beneath our feet.

Here are some ways how failure can look and feel like.

Failure can look like:

  • Getting fired
  • Going bankrupt or experiencing financial hardship
  • Missing a promotion
  • Getting ghosted
  • Breaking a diet
  • Going through a divorce, sometimes more than once
  • Standing by when you wanted to stand up
  • Failing to complete a major goal or just your daily task list
  • Doing everything right and still losing where it seems to count.
  • Something you poured time into coming out all wrong (IKEA fail, anyone?)
  • Your twenties (just kidding—well, kind of)

Failure can feel like:

  • Disappointment
  • Disillusionment
  • Deflation (lots of “d” words, I know)
  • Emptiness

On the other hand, failure can also feel like:

So, what exactly are the lessons that happen in between that help us transcend from the depths of despair to emboldened by wisdom? Turns out, they are there if we are willing to see them.

Here are 10 critical lessons to learn when you feel like you’ve failed in life.

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1. There Is Merit in Trying

If you have failed, the underlying truth is that you must have tried to be in this position. The fear of failure runs so deep that many people choose not to try just to avoid the possibility of failing.

In a survey by Linkagoal, fear of failure plagued 31% of 1,083 adult respondents—a larger percentage than those who feared spiders (30%), being home alone (9%), or even the paranormal (15%).[1]

If you have found yourself feeling like a failure, then it means you summoned the courage to do something hard. Remember that same courage hasn’t disappeared just because it didn’t work out the way you’d hoped. Celebrate your willingness to try and note that this is the same spirit that will fuel you as you move forward and try again or try something new.

2. Failure Humbles Us if We Don’t Give It Too Much Power

If we give our failures too much credit, we memorialize them as predictors of future inevitable failures. It’s as if by failing at something in life, you can never succeed in that area again. We catastrophize our failure, widen its scope, and turn a single moment in time into a self-fulfilling prophesy we are destined to replay.

But we don’t have to. When we acknowledge our failure for exactly what it is—no more, no less—we allow it to humble us. We take it in and name what has happened, narrate its impact, and keep it just like that. We see it as data and acknowledge that it has little to do with whether or not we will fail or succeed in the future.

3. The Mental Gymnastics of “What if” Are Useless—Repurpose the Time

What’s done is done. Reliving our failure moment serves nobody. “Would’ve’s”, “could’ve’s”, and “should’ve’s” rush through our minds as we consider all of the ways things could have turned out differently, if only. But the truth is that the time we spend in this place of unnecessary replay could be better spent working to take 100% ownership of the parts we had control over that led to the failure.

This is our chance to spend time in reflection and identify the key factors with utmost honesty. Many of us seek the opportunity to let ourselves off the hook when failure hurts too much. Rather than admit to the thing that we could have changed, we look for external sources to blame or distort the memory with excuses.

Not every failure is within our full control, but there are often pieces we can be accountable to, learn from, and show up better for in the future. It is better that you “focus solely on those aspects that are in your control. Feeling in control is a literal antidote to feelings of helplessness and demoralization that will motivate you to try again, minimize your chances of another failure, and increase your likelihood of success.”[2]

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4. Accountability Cannot Be Shared

Martyrdom is not the goal, and we want to avoid blame. Accountability, however, is important. We want to own up to the pieces of error we recognize through self-reflection and express 100% accountability in conversation with external parties who were impacted by our failures.

Responsibility can be shared and the other party may have some part to play, but to make meaning of our failures, we should use this opportunity to state our impact regardless of our intent. The point is to eliminate excuses, name what occurred, and state what comes next, even if there is nobody else involved.

For example, when you feel like you failed in life for being passed over for a promotion in your career, it may not call for a conversation with your boss, but you can reflect if there is accountability to be taken for the times you could have been more intentional toward your work and set a goal for how you might focus harder next quarter and make a point to self-advocate more publicly.

Conversely, if the failure is a break-up and self-reflection surfaces ways you could have been more communicative or transparent during the relationship, you can make a point to admit that to the affected party and note that this is something you plan to work on before pursuing your next relationship.

5. The Process of Elimination Applies

Think about the last time you tackled a multiple choice question on an exam. You had to use logic to rule the choices down to the most likely possibilities, and in the absence of certainty, you probably took an educated guess.

Life offers us similar opportunities all the time, and we can see failure as helping us to widdle down closer and closer to the “right answer.” All the ways that something shouldn’t go get us closer to knowing the way how it should. Failure in life serves us in this way. When we can process our failures productively, extract the information they provide, and proceed with insight, we get closer to the outcomes we hope to find.

6. Subpar Stats Still Belong to Winners

Baseball players who have a batting average of 300 or more are usually considered all-stars or potential hall of farmers. What this means though is that if you have a batting average of 300, you are essentially failing 70% of the time.[3]

Now, that doesn’t sound as impressive does it? But the reality is that we fail more times than we succeed over the course of our lives. It’s time to put things in perspective and reflect on your failures.

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7. You Find Out What You Are Made Of

Failure isn’t for the faint of heart. When you fail, I mean really fail in life, it hurts—a lot. It is no easy feat to overcome the hardship that comes with failing in life big time. Still, there is something we prove to ourselves when we choose to get back out there and give it another go.

Trusting after having your heart broken, applying for a promotion after being passed over before, asking the next person out on a date after being ghosted—the metaphorical step we take to “get back on the horse” proves to us that we are more resilient than we realized. We have tried and failed before, so we can try and fail again.

When we learn to rebound, we learn just what we are capable of.+

“The experience of going out of your comfort zone is not a pleasant one, But the confidence, the feeling of relief—we call it ‘excitation transfer’—are very intense. That sense of mastery, ‘Wow, look what I just did,’ is a learning experience. The fear itself is not pleasant, but people never remember it. What they remember is that positive high.”[4]

When we muscle through failure in the direction of trying again, we can master the art of failing forward.

Little kids learning to walk fall to the ground hundreds of times, but they don’t just decide to crawl for life. They keep on standing. When we tap into that same child-like comfort with failure, we can approach life more light-heartedly and push back on all of the negative self-talk we learn as we grow. “If I fail people will judge me,” If I try and everyone sees me fail I will lose their respect.” Who cares? Living life is hard.

8. It’s All in the Framing

You have to decide how you want to think and talk about your failures moving forward. What you choose to mention says a lot about what the failure meant for you. If you are dwelling on and talking about all of the painful residuals of the failure, you perpetuate life’s greatest problems.

Like Yoda said, “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering.” When you talk about the learning, you perpetuate the growth the world aches to see.

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9. Sharing Is Caring

Repurpose your learning and save someone else the trouble, I have always questioned the saying that every generation must learn for themselves that the iron is hot—I call bull! Some folks may heed the warning.

Granted, failure finds us all, and there are some lessons we have to learn ourselves, but it never hurts to share your story. Be open, transparent, and bold in the way that you offer your insights to the world. Whether it is in the context of a mentorship relationship, publicly sharing in your blog, or snippets you share when you sit on a panel one day, never underestimate the impact you can have by sharing the “aha!”s that came from your failures. People will appreciate your humility and feel like they, too, have permission to fail.

10. It’s Okay to Let It Go (You Know, Like What Elsa Said?)

If you are notoriously hard on yourself, you may feel compelled to hold onto failure, but once the reflection, accountability, and learning have occurred, the failure has served its purpose. Let it go, and free up space to take your next steps. Besides, you have plenty more failures left in you!

Final Thoughts

Life is really just one great big chance to get really good at failing. There are so many opportunities to muck it up when you feel like you failed in life, but there are far more than 10 big lessons to learn.

See each day as a new shot at courage—a new day to practice learning from mistakes and applying that learning to the next big risk. It is okay to fail in life because that does not mean that you fail for life. Nobody has ever succeeded without first failing in some way.

Whether you have been failing full throttle or tentative to avoid missteps, let today be the first of many days you fail with full confidence that there is purpose in everything you do.

Read These If You Feel Like a Failure

Featured photo credit: Eric Brehm via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Staci Taustine

Founder & CEO, Stubborn Heart Consulting LLC.

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Last Updated on January 12, 2022

15 Reasons Why Taking Action Is Important For Success

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15 Reasons Why Taking Action Is Important For Success

Success is not guaranteed at birth, and work is required to achieve what you desire. As you grow personally and professionally, you should explore these 15 reasons why taking action is important for success so you can reach your dreams.

However, before jumping in and taking action, it’s essential to understand its three components.

  1. To take action means to do something to get a particular result.[1] Any time you intentionally create movement, it is all because of the desired outcome. Execute your actions to support your dreams and goals.
  2. Action can be hard to take, but that’s only due to the fact of misrepresentation of the possibilities. Do your best not to focus on the outcome. Instead, ask yourself, “What does this make possible?” Even though obstacles and detours will distract you from your desired results, don’t let that be your primary focus. You’re created for more, so be willing to go the extra mile!
  3. Failure to take action can stem from many areas, the main one being the failures that have already occurred. Look at your failures as a lesson learned, so you can be willing to learn even more. Stretching yourself beyond what you can see builds trust within yourself and seizes the opportunity of the present!

“Failure is only a trial run to the success for the greatest of these, your journey.”—Kristianne Wargo

If you want to escape the world of mediocrity, you have to embrace the power of taking action. By doing so, you keep moving in the right direction.

Your journey is no longer dependent on the outcomes or the results. Instead, it empowers you to tread the trail of hope even when all seems hopeless.

Further, the main result becomes the balance in your life, all based on Newton’s First Law: the state of motion of an object is maintained as long as the object is not acted upon by an unbalanced force.

You can take all the hits that come your way, good or bad, due to all things resisting changes in their state of motion—they tend to “keep doing what they’re doing.”[2] The only shift that needs to happen comes from you taking action.

“Action is the foundational key to all success.”—Pablo Picasso

Taking action seems to be so fundamentally basic that it should not even have to be mentioned. But life can have you turning in circles that you become disengaged with the basics and need a foundational review. Blaze a new trail filled with the discovery of consistent actions and a determined heart.

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These 15 reasons why taking action is important for success will decrease your confusion while increasing productivity and heightening your purpose for a lifetime.

1. Action Allows You to Shift or Pivot

It’s easier to direct a moving vehicle than one that is parked. So, why not keep moving? Your activity encourages what you don’t see to become visible as you go through the intentional motions. Here is where change occurs, releasing what might have been a struggle to that which is natural.

2. Action Ignites Motivation

Getting through the stuff when life happens doesn’t come from pity parties but by taking the next step.

When you constantly fight for encouragement, your emotions are set in overdrive. The focus is unbearable and stifles the opportunities before you. All you feel is what couldn’t be, and you leave all on the table what you couldn’t see.

Keep your emotions and feelings in check by staying in action.

“One step at a time leads to miles of greatness!”—Kristianne Wargo

3. Action Establishes Habits

The more you do something, the easier it is to keep doing it, whether good or bad. You can’t succeed if you don’t do anything.

By maintaining the action, you are setting yourself up for a greater chance of hitting your goals without being too detailed and overplaying the plan.

4. Action Shrinks Failures

As much as you always want to be successful, failure is inevitable. But by taking action, your failures become less of the everyday cornerstone and more about engaging in firsts and seconds.

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The only failure is not trying. So, when you try, you cannot fail.

5. Action Induces Winning

No one afraid of losing has ever won. How many times does an athlete have to lose before the win? Too many most would say. But actually, it’s just enough to keep the iron in the fire to refine the gifts and talents. It’s in the fire where champions are made.

6. Action Breeds Better

Preparation is good. However, it’s easy to get stuck in research and making sure everything is going to play out as planned. But you can get buried in the preparation and forget that to get you moving to the next level, you must be in action.

Don’t let yourself become trapped in practice trying to get it all perfect first. Action will always make it better.

“Action is the heartbeat of success.”—Kristianne Wargo

7. Action Determines What’s Possible

You cannot eliminate what doesn’t work and establish what does work except through trial and error. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. That requires action on your part.

You have to be ready and willing to test in real-time to understand the complexity of what you are going after. The more action you take, the deeper your possibilities grow.

8. Actions Create Your “Now”

There is no need to put off tomorrow what you can do today. Build consistency in doing something with intention, and see how your life changes.

If you wait for the right time to show up, you will be waiting forever. Take your day into your own hands and create your “now.”

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9. Action Slows Down Time

There’s no time like the present. By staying in action, essentially, you slow down your inhibitions and fears from manifesting into more than what they need to be. You get to decide how fast you move by the actions you take in your every day leading to your success.

10. Action Produces a Result

How will you know if what you are doing will get you down the lane of success? Trial and error.

Every step you take produces an outcome, good or bad. So, why shy away from what works. Do it and make the adjustments needed in real-time.

11. Action Creates a Chain Reaction

Once you experience the result and determine the validity of how it coincides with your dreams and goals—meaning getting it right—then it directs you to the next step.

The plan of how you’re going to achieve success continues through the chain reaction. Action is the foundation where consistency is built.

12. Action Silences Your Inner Critic

The most significant time spent is with your inner voice.

If you are in a constant mode of debating whether or not you are worthy, good enough, or qualified, how will you be able to move forward? You’ll be frozen in time. However, staying in action makes the inner voice more of a nuisance yet can be muted by taking the next step.

13. Action Utilizes Knowledge

Reading and learning are addicting. But no matter how much you read or learn, nothing will gain success for you unless you take action.

The thing is that action is not so exciting. In fact, action can be tedious, especially if you don’t get the desired results. Yet, knowledge can lead your action when utilized appropriately. Don’t sit on what you know. Knowledge is power.

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14. Action Minimizes Risks

When you are in constant motion, momentum is on your side. What appears as a risk initially fades away more quickly because there is no time to overthink what just happened. The risks exist only to be outnumbered by the actions taken.

15. Action Builds Trust with Yourself

Many failures and dreams stop you in your tracks simply because of the lack of trust.

When you find yourself down and out, and your record reflects losing more than winning, it’s easier to quit and retreat. Yet, if you have confidence in yourself, trust triumphs over what didn’t happen, opening the door for what’s possible.

The Success Equation for Life

Knowledge + Action = Success

Ready your head to make a commitment that nullifies the missing link and establishes success by taking action. Here is where you will celebrate success more often than not. Now, the results and outcomes may not be as expected, but a little suspense never hurt any journey.

May your heart compound the experiences, including your commitment to taking action and the results of what’s to come. Claim the ultimate success when action meets your everyday.

“Grow beyond what you see so you can succeed beyond what you desire.”—Kristianne Wargo

Your journey is a path of many colors. Take a chance to make a change to choose the action that serves your purpose. Cheers to you for taking action and creating success this new season! The best is yet to come. Be present. Be incredible. Be you!

More Tips to Get You Into Action

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: take action
[2] The Physics Classroom: Newton’s First Law

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