In my last blog post, I talked to you about quitting and how, sometimes, it’s both brave and necessary. Of course, it’s also both brave and necessary to be able to pick yourself up from failures and continue on forwards so you can reach your dreams. So today, I want to equip you with a way to do that.
Failure is an every-day part of our lives. It sucks, but you know it’s true. Almost everything worth having is difficult to reach, so it’s inevitable that we’ll fail along the way in the quest to achieve well, anything. That’s why it’s so vital that we learn to pick ourselves up from a failure and, undeterred, continue on. Failure is a lesson in resilience and creativity that’s free and available to everyone, so let’s learn how to make the most of it.
What do I even mean by failure? It can be anything from ‘not going to plan’ to full out disaster. In short, anything that doesn’t measure up to your personal definition of success. For example, if you’ve set your sights on a gold medal at a competition, a failure might be anything less than that medal, even silver. Similarly, a failure might mean not getting the promotion you’ve been working for, or the new product you’ve released not getting any sales. It might be the breakdown of a relationship, missing a rent payment on your flat, not passing an important exam. You name it, if you wanted something and didn’t get it, it can be classed as a failure.
Now don’t get me wrong, failure is a mindset that is tightly bound into how you view success. If your view of success is flexible and you’re able to recognise and focus on the wins in a situation, it won’t feel like a failure. Maybe you’re just as ecstatic with the silver medal as the gold because you know you performed your very best on the day and that’s enough for you. That’s great. This post is for those true moments of failure, when you’re deep down in the muck of emotions that are making you doubt yourself and your commitment to your end-goal. If you’re feeling like there’s no point, that it’s impossible, that you’re dumb/annoying/unskilled/unable/insert-negatives-here, that’s when you know you’re smack-bang in the middle of a lesson in failure and resilience. In short, welcome to living hell. Let’s get out of here.
Before we go any further, you need to ask yourself one thing: Do I still want this?
‘This’ is your end goal. The thing that you failed at. Do I still want the promotion, for example? If the answer is yes, fab, we can get you there. If the answer is no, take some time to think about what you want instead. For example, if your relationship has failed, maybe you don’t want it anymore! Well, what do you choose instead? Do you choose your happiness? Your career? Do you want to start dating? You get the idea. Note, there is no ‘right’ answer here. The right answer is whatever feels right to you.
We officially start this process of picking yourself up exactly where you are. At this point, I suggest you get a notebook or open a word document so you can start journaling your thoughts. Consider where you are at the present moment in time in conjunction to your end goal. What have you achieved to date? How much have you improved when you think about where you started? How do you feel about your goal right now? What emotions come up for you? How about the thoughts you’re experiencing? Are you still doing anything that will help you reach your goal? Have you completely stopped? Journal around everything that comes up for you about your current situation. It’s important to situate yourself before you move on. Accept that you are where you are.
Next, I want you to interrogate the process to date. In short, I want you to answer the question ‘how did I get here?’ Here, you might be thinking about what you did and didn’t do along the way, and the chain of events that led to your current predicament. Is there anything that, in retrospect, you can appreciate as a mistake? This is also the time to consider everything you did that worked a treat. It’s all important for carving the way forwards.
The third step is to outline exactly where it is you want to go. Hopefully, before starting this process, you’ll have identified the big picture goal. For example, I want to win the gold, get the job, get the girl, become happier, move to America… you get the idea. Now is the time to really bottom out what it is you want. Exactly. To the detail. I want you to know when you want to do the thing by, how you’re going to know you’ve achieved it, that it’s just on the edge of impossible so you know you’ll have to grow to reach it. I want it to be something you have a level of control over too. Too often we set our sights on outcomes that are outside of our power. Take the gold medal example, you can do everything on the planet to work for that gold, and do your absolute best on the day, you can even BE the legitimate best on the day, and still get the silver (hello human judges). Of course, you can still aim for that gold medal, but cushion your goal with things you can control, to do with your own performance. Really take your time on this step. Try to visualise yourself having achieved your outcome: how will your life change? What benefits will you see? Get comfortable in your idealised reality, and then move on to the next step…
Answer me this: what is the first, smallest step you can take towards your goal?
This is your first step. Getting out of the hellish pit of failure isn’t easy, even after all this thinking and journalling. That’s why we do the very smallest step first; it allows us to prove to ourselves that we can move forwards very easily. Once you’ve established what that small step is, commit to how and when you will do it. Once you’ve done that, outline all the quick wins that come to mind around achieving your goal. These are all the other small, easy, fast steps you can take with minimal effort. Little steps in themselves will not feel like a lot, but they do add up. What we want to create here is the feeling that it’s possible again. You’re creating a bitesize blueprint to success. You don’t have to project plan the entire journey, just enough small steps to get you out of the pit. Hint: it won’t take as many steps as you think.
Lastly, how can you make this process easier on yourself? What resources do you have available to you to help you? Who do you know? I can’t stress enough how having just one person in your team cheering you on can make the world of difference. Believe me when I say you will find allies in the strangest of places. All you need to do is ask. Asking for help can be so scary, I get it. So there’s two things you can do: 1) work out how you can help each other, and; 2) suck it up and do the scary thing.
There won’t always be a mutually beneficial outcome but, you know what, the majority of people will help you anyway. Humans are wired up to want to help others. The thought of being rejected is damned scary, but isn’t the thought of being stuck in the pit of failure forever scarier? Do some mind mapping. Put yourself or your goal in the middle and spiderweb out all of the people you know and all of the things they could help you with. Or, spiderweb out all of the things you need to do to achieve your goal and then think of all the people who could help you with those tasks. You don’t have to talk to all of them, but it’s worth being conscious of the network around you. Equally, making the process easier on yourself might mean looking after yourself better, remembering to sleep enough and eat well. It might mean extending that deadline you’ve set so you can reduce the pressure and increase the enjoyment. Have a think. Has this thinking changed your first step?
All that’s left now is to take the first step.
Take it soon so you can’t overthink it. Hopefully it’s something small and within your power (if it’s not you weren’t paying attention), so you should be able to do it after reading this, or tomorrow morning maybe. Commit to it. Say it out loud. Tell someone you’re going to do it. Tell me in the comments what you’re going to do. I want to know.
Failure isn’t forever, it’s an invitation to dig deep and show what you’re capable of. Every person reading this post is more than capable of continuing through that horrible low to reach stellar highs, I see it happen every day and I believe it to my core. Do you?