The 365 Commitment

Day 169 – What to Do When Failing

I get a lot of advice about how to succeed, to improve, and to maximize my potential. What I receive less of is guidance on what to do when I know that I am failing. There’s plenty of encouragement to fail frequently and to embrace failure because that is how you learn. “Failure is good,” we say. However, seldom do we discuss how to grapple with life when engulfed by failure. What should you do when you’re failing?

The Paradox of Failure

I’m going to offer some advice on this topic, but I’ll be honest: I am just as bad at failing as you are. I despise failing. It leaves me feeling miserable, discouraged, and the sensation of spiraling downward is excruciating. I do not deal with failure well, nor have I ever willfully embraced it. Despite my best efforts to avoid it, failure has taught me some valuable, albeit hard-won, lessons from the darkest times of my life—lessons I revisit only reluctantly.

When Success Talks About Failure

It’s interesting to note that people often laud the virtues of failure when they’re at the peak of success. When they’re doing great things and authoring amazing content, that’s when they like to mention how failure propelled them to their current heights. While that may be true, it doesn’t diminish the fact that their failures were probably soul-crushing experiences. So, yes, failure can be beneficial, but it undeniably hurts.

Facing Failure Head-On

So, you’re trudging along your intended path and start to notice signs of failure. Perhaps you’re veering off the path, or you discover the path was ill-conceived from the start. Failure seems imminent. What now? How should you react? Is there a way to avoid the looming disaster, or at least prepare for the excruciating ordeal ahead? Should you passively watch it unfold like a train wreck, or is there a way to intervene?

Identify the Primary Cause

If you’re in a rapid state of decline and failure seems inevitable, a crucial step is to identify the root cause. My experience has taught me that there’s often a single primary catalyst for failure. Pinpointing this cause is crucial because it enables rational thinking. Can this cause be resolved, fixed, or removed quickly? What will it cost to address this primary issue? Often, by identifying and tackling this cause, I’ve managed to avert failure at the last minute. Other times, recognizing an insurmountable problem has allowed me to cut my losses early, reducing the overall impact of failure.

Prepare for The Recovery

When failure is unavoidable, it might be tempting to simply brace for impact. However, a more productive approach is to start planning for a rapid recovery. As the failure gains momentum and resistance becomes futile, focus your energy on formulating your next move. This proactive planning can minimize the time spent in regret and depression, turning a negative situation into an opportunity for growth. In the business world, this is often referred to as “pivoting”—essentially, trying something new.

Document the Failure

While it may not seem appealing at first, documenting your failure can be incredibly therapeutic. Instead of succumbing to misery, documenting the event and its causes can provide clarity and understanding. This reflection can maximize the benefits derived from the failure by offering perspective—a difficult commodity to come by in the midst of adversity. Pretend you’re an archivist or historian recording this failure in real time. Taking time each day to step back and write about your experiences in the third person can offer invaluable insights.

Concluding Thoughts on Failure

Failure is never pleasant, but it’s possible to learn to manage it more effectively by seeking to understand its causes and lessons. By planning for recovery and documenting the journey, you can emerge from failure with new ideas and a detailed account of what you’ve learned. This not only helps in the immediate aftermath but serves as a powerful reference for navigating future challenges.

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Don Trail
Don Trail
26 days ago

Yes Sir. Failure is a good teacher. Just ask Edison. I have learned more through failure than I ever did with success. However, I like success way better. I like the idea of journaling. I also learned to journal during the most difficult times of my life. I never thought I would love it so much. I incorporate prayer with it as well. It helps me focus as I reflect on life. A good way to become more self-aware of what is going on in your life.

Guy Reams
26 days ago
Reply to  Don Trail

Yes, agreed. Journaling is powerful (and so is prayer for that matter)!

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