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Published on January 12, 2021

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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Published on September 20, 2021

What is Tenacity and How to Use It To Be Successful

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What is Tenacity and How to Use It To Be Successful

Do you ever feel like life is passing you by and you don’t have the same energy as others? Maybe you have seen people push for new opportunities with ease, and you wonder how they are capable of so much more. If this is the case, you might need a boost of tenacity. But first, what is tenacity?

Being tenacious means having drive and passion, which can be experienced in various ways. Maybe you approach cleaning your house with methodical determination and a detailed plan. When it comes to your job, you might analyze how to be more efficient and prepare for future projects while you are off the clock. Being tenacious does not necessarily mean being the loudest in the room or always moving at a fast pace. It also entails giving yourself the space to breathe and be in the shadows when you need to, then showing up again with confidence and strength.

Tenacity is what makes you leap out of bed each day. You might not have discovered what this spark is yet, but it is somewhere within you. Becoming a more determined person and utilizing this quality can allow you to be more successful. Here are four ways to use tenacity that will yield measurable results.

1. Put in Preparation

The key to being a tenacious person is going above and beyond when it comes to preparation. If you have a deadline to meet at your job, take the time to organize your approach. You might need to wake up earlier or stay later on some days to make sure you can deliver your best work. Putting in this extra effort will allow you to stand out, and it could open the door for more opportunities. You might also take steps to plan for retirement. This could mean analyzing your current assets, investing in stocks, or changing your spending habits. Retiring is something we think about all the time, so actually being ready for it will make you more successful.

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Tenacity can also be used in personal areas of your life. If you are thinking about going on a vacation, start by outlining the logistics of timing. You can first consider if there are any loose ends to tie up before you leave. From there, do thorough research on the area you are traveling to and find out if there are any must-do experiences. Decide on the excursions you want to take part in, and set aside days to simply lounge around. Planning ahead of time will eliminate stress and ensure a more relaxing vacation. Even organizing your days can have a huge impact on feeling accomplished. Creating a grocery list to make meals for the week or scheduling workouts will allow you to be more productive.

In all aspects of life, the tenacious person takes the time to prepare for the future. This makes achieving your goals easier and you will find that you are more efficient.

2. Be Forward-Looking

The difference between a person with fierce tenacity and someone who lacks the same drive is that the tenacious person does not let life just pass them by. If you find yourself constantly reminiscing about the past, you might consider shifting your mindset.

To be a more determined person, you need to live in the present moment. Exert your energy in focusing on what is to come. You can use your past to shape how you want your future to look, but you have to let go of any resentment you might have. For instance, if you can’t release the memories of a toxic relationship, then you aren’t opening yourself to finding the love of your life. When you wake up, tell yourself that today is an opportunity to accomplish anything you set your heart on and consider what might be next for you.

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Perhaps you have been pondering how you might develop a new skill or pick up an exciting hobby. Using passion and tenacity, you can seize the day and build a better future by signing up for an instructional class or trying a new activity. There is so much liberty in forward-thinking. You might feel that it is daunting to contemplate the unknown, but it is really a huge chance for change. You are giving yourself a blank canvas to draw who you want to be without holding back. Think about where you might see yourself living in the future, who your friends will be, or what kind of job you will have.

When you learn to channel tenacious energy towards tasks and goals daily, your days no longer feel mundane, and you can achieve more.

3. Seek Opportunities

Part of being tenacious is tapping into one’s passion and purpose. If you show that you are open to new opportunities, you will have more chances to succeed. If you are searching for a job and are offered an interview for a position, make sure you come with insightful questions and send a follow-up or a thank you email. This will set you apart from other candidates and convey that you are enthusiastic about the opportunity.

If you are already employed, use tenacity to ask for a promotion or expand your duties. You might offer to assist with other team projects or bring new ideas to the table. When you truly love your job and are excited to attend office parties or volunteer at events, you will naturally exude passion and drive.

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In your personal life, find ways to diversify your routine. Switch up what you order at a restaurant or test out interesting recipes at home. Instead of going to the gym like usual, try out a spin class. Letting every day be a little more different will be revitalizing. Also, seek openings for making new friends. Look for groups or clubs in your community that you can join where you might meet different people who share some of the same interests. Start becoming a person who is up for anything.

When a friend invites you somewhere, just say yes and be open to a new experience. Others will begin to associate you with being lively and tenacious, and you will attract similar people. When you surround yourself with individuals who are as strong-willed and energetic as you are, you will vibrate at a higher frequency.

4. Know Your Worth

Being tenacious will come easily if you remember the bigger picture and can visualize reaching for your dreams. This could mean reminding yourself why your work matters. Whether you have a career in customer service or the corporate world, make sure you understand how what you do benefits others. Knowing that the project you’re working on makes a difference allows you to bring a new level of excitement.

If you don’t have a clear meaning behind your actions, waking up for a 9-to-5 job feels tiresome, and you become complacent with your position. By asking how everyone’s duties fit together, you might find that you bring a valuable skill. It can also be beneficial to recognize the fruits of your labor. Perhaps you worked with a team member and assisted them with a project. When you see the finished product and how grateful your coworker was for your aid, you gain an understanding of how you can be in service to others. This makes it easier to value your worth and be passionate about other tasks as well.

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Even keeping a vision board can allow you to be more persistent and determined to succeed. Putting up pictures of a car you’ve always wanted or words associated with the type of partner you’re seeking can motivate you and remind you what your end goal is. Part of being tenacious is also considering how you want people to talk about you. Taking a few moments each day to meditate on how your friends and family regard you will allow you to remember the qualities you love about yourself and anything you might want to work on. Understanding your worth and how others view you helps you live with more tenacity.

Final Thoughts

Tenacity is what moves us to action. It is energetic passion and perseverance that we are all capable of exuding. When you are a tenacious person at work, you will become a dependable individual who is given more opportunities.

Having tenacity in relationships also builds stronger bonds with like-minded people. Challenge yourself to bring determination in these ways to a few aspects of your life in the coming months. By being intentional with your time, you will maximize your impact and embrace success.

Featured photo credit: Ales Krive via unsplash.com

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