People don’t talk regularly about how to keep going when you feel like a failure so it’s helpful to have some tools in place for the inevitable low points you’ll face in life.
It may not feel like it right now but you know we’ve ALL been there. We worked hard. We did all the “right” things. And yet, in the end, the outcome was a complete and total failure. Worse, we FEEL like a complete and total failure.
It’s not even the perceived failure that hurts the most. It’s the clarity of hindsight that brings all of the “I should’ve knowns” into focus and suddenly you doubt your instincts and ultimately yourself.
It can be hard to begin again … and begin again you must.
So before you crawl your way back into that third pint of Ben & Jerry’s (not to diminish the medicinal effects of Chocolate Fudge Brownie after one of life’s gut punches), remember this critical road map forward. Actually… feel free to munch on that B&J while you read, no one is really judging you anyway. Here’s how to keep going when you feel like a failure.
One Every setback, no matter how dire it seems, is temporary.
You know this. I know this. Yet you certainly need reminding when you’re in the thick of what you’re convinced is your biggest failure yet. Regardless of this unexpected “back to square one” state in which you find yourself it simply will not last forever.
PLUS the fact that you were at square five (or ten or 99) says you know what to do with square one. It sucks. Sure. It’s not forever, though, and you’re not helpless.
Two You feel like a failure AND you’re still a badass.
There are going to be moments where you can see yourself on the other side of failure. And there will be times when you just cannot get that stone out of the pit of your stomach or the replayed scenarios out of your head. Both of those states have a purpose in your healing process so don’t rush through or bury them. The more you try to shove down the uncomfortable emotions the more they’ll scream to be heard. Instead, acknowledge them using “and,” not “but.”
as in: “Omg, I feel shitty AND I know I’ve truly got this.”
“But,” is a negation of everything that comes before it and you know as well as I do that if “shitty” needs to be heard it will be heard. Probably at the most inopportune time, too. Don’t wait for your hiring manager to ask an innocent, “how’ve you been” to trigger a meltdown. Have the meltdown (safely) AND that you’re still, at the end of the day, a total badass. You really will be stronger for this.
Three Don’t wait for the gift of hindsight
It may not have feel like it but even in the midst of your greatest trials you know how to keep going when you feel like a failure and you know you’ll be stronger for it.
The benefit of hindsight shows you how your previous tribulations built efficacy and strength. Well, you can know right now, without end-game assurances, that today’s trial is building you up even more. What have you been asking for? More money, fewer gossips, healthier relationships? You’ve been asking to level up. Did you think that would be easy??
You always get what you want and it rarely arrives in a form that is comfortable. When that sinks in just remember step 1…this shit’s temporary.
Four Take stock of your resources
When you’re in the midst of a life transition (read: shit storm that feels like failure) every cognitive bias you have goes into full force trying to shove you into survival mode. You’ll find the negativity bias, the disposition to focus on the negative, at the helm barking orders, “look at how that person wronged you, don’t fall for that again!” Or “do whatever you can to fix this, the consequences will be dire!!”
While he’s not exactly wrong (you DO have an obstacle to grow through) his focus on what is wrong or what will go wrong only serves to feed the defeatist beast within you. Instead, take stock of what you have going for you and put a plan in place on how to access it. No matter how low you get you still have your skills, your tenacity, your people, your curiosity, timing, past experiences and more.
Exercise: Fold a sheet of paper into thirds vertically right now and write three column headings:
What do I have within me that I can rely on, no matter what? (Tenacity, experience, charm, etc)
What is possible through the help of others? (Support, education, networking, etc)
What else might you use to your advantage that is in your environment and/or circumstances? (Market changes, seasonal timing, geographical advantage, etc)
Fill in at least three items under each and add to it every day. You’ll find that you have more in your favor than you realize. You’ll also see a path appear as action items pop to mind. Write them down. Brainstorm with someone about more. No matter how ridiculous the “to do” list gets the creative problem solving has begun, so let it flow.
Five Take a step, any step
Martin Luther King, Jr. knew how to keep going when you feel like a failure, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” While we desperately wish that we could see the entire path toward our future success, leveling up simply does not work that way. All we ever really get is the very next step. Review that list you just made and see what jumps out at you. Don’t over think it just pick one and take action.
Thought of an old co-worker who knows a headhunter? Call them. Remembered that you always had your best ideas while arranging flowers? Get to arranging, for crying out loud. Nothing defeats pessimism like faithful action.
When you’re feeling like a failure take one digestible step after another and the path toward your win will be revealed. Pretty soon you’ll realize that while you were learning and growing into your new and improved self you put miles of progress behind you. And you’ll see how much stronger and better you are for it, too.
Six Scavenger hunt your wins
I don’t care if all you did was put the ice cream back before polishing it off completely, count the win.
It’s important to remember that even when it feels like you’re failing, in truth you’re still winning. You just forgot how often you’re winning because you got so damn good at it.
Took that aforementioned first step? Win. Showered today? Win. Paid your electric bill? Fed your dog? Didn’t text your ex after your third glass of wine? Win. Win. WIN!!!
When you stop treating your life as an either/or experience you realize that everything you need exists within you which means you really can use life’s stumbling blocks to bolster yourself even if you didn’t really feel ready for the challenge in the first place.
For every peak in life you’ll face a valley. That knowledge isn’t always enough to prepare you for that long slide down when it’s time. Draw on these six simple steps, however, and you’ll not only be out of the doldrums quickly you’ll find you’re innovating yourself (and your life) into greater levels of success than you ever could have if you hadn’t been shoved into change in the first place.
The short answer the to the “how to keep going when you feel like a failure” phase is…You’re a total badass and life is making you badassier, that’s all. You got this!!
Want some support? Accountability? How about a kick in the ass? Email me and we’ll find a way to work together that works for you.