95% of my writing serves the purpose of clarifying my own thoughts – often as it concerns processing my life and the events, people, experiences, aspirations, troubles and decisions I’m confronted with. If you find any value in these writings I’m glad. If not, I hope you find what you’re looking for somewhere else. I’ve had to confront a lot of failures recently, and I’ve found it very hard to deal with, hence this post. I’ve been overcome by feelings of anger, doubt, fear, frustration, self-pity, melancholy, hopelessness and embarrassment.
These 10 steps have helped me to process recent events and move forward. Whether you’ve gone through a divorce, you’re declaring bankruptcy or you’re stuck reliving some other failure in your life, I know this list can help you.
- Take Responsibility – If you’re going to blame bad luck, timing, some other person or event for your failure, then the rest of this list is not for you. First deal with your fear, ego, immaturity and denial about admitting you fucked up and then come back here.
- Give Yourself Permission to Feel Like Shit – Odd I know, you might think ‘don’t worry I’ve got that covered’ but we often suppress our painful emotions which can cause long term trauma and negative behaviours. I eat chocolate, curse and watch movies like a champion the day after a painful failure. So take the time you need (24-48hr) to hurt, cry, scream, shake or break something, then move on to 3.
- Forgive Yourself – Sadly many people skip this step causing them to carry unnecessary personal resentment, judgement and bad beliefs into their future. If you really forgive yourself (try standing in front of a mirror, looking yourself in the eyes and sincerely saying ‘I forgive you’ until you truly feel it) for whatever you did in the process of failing, and how it affected you or anyone else, you’ll be able to focus on moving forward without being clouded by emotions like guilt, shame or regret.
- Analyse and Deconstruct it – Now that you’ve dealt with most of the emotions surrounding your failure you’re better equipped to rationally assess what you did wrong, and all other contributing factors. There’s usually one or a series of actions (or lack of actions), assumptions, or beliefs that cause a fuck up. List at least 10 critical factors or mistakes that contributed to your failure.
- Can You Reverse, Make Amends or Recover? – Unfortunately, this isn’t possible for all types of failures. Perhaps you were only ever going to get one shot at Olympic Gold or being part of The Beatles. If there’s still an opportunity for you to save that deal or marriage, right a wrong or construct a plan B, now is your chance. With what you’ve learned in Step 4, brainstorm 10 things you can do right now that will set you on the path of recovery. If it’s too late or recovery isn’t possible, move on.
- Bring in the Reinforcements – Failure makes you want to curl into a ball and lie in the corner by yourself. The fear of embarrassment and judgement causes us to internalise our experiences and avoid discussing them with others unless we want them to join our pity party. Since we’ve dealt with any pity-party related emotions already (if you haven’t, go back and do that) your next objective is to find someone you trust and respect and to discuss your analysis and deconstruction (See 4.) of your failure. What this allows you to do is create more clarity, get the opinion of an outsider (who might call you on any bullshit) and garner the support of someone who you respect.
- The Better You – Through everything you’ve done, experienced, thought about, and discussed up until now…how are you better equipped to tackle any future goals? List the 5 key things that will make you more capable of success in any future endeavour or goal.
- New Goal Posts and Strategy – There’s no point to living in the past. Now that you’ve learned from your failure it’s time to decide what’s next. List 3 goals you’re deeply excited about where you will apply the learnings from this failure. Design a plan for how you’re going to achieve these goals.
- Stop Thinking, Start Doing – You’ve spent enough time thinking and feeling, it’s time to start doing. Get 3 big things (related to your new goals) on your strategic plans done today.
- Set Up Systems – The achievement of any goal you have (and avoiding failure) will be dictated by the quality of your systems. I’ll give you a tip, one of your systems should include regular check-ins with your ‘reinforcements’, advisors or anyone who will be supporting you in your goals so that they can objectively tell you whether you’re on track and avoiding factors that caused previous failures.
- Bonus: You Define It – There are bound to be times when you regress and get caught up in negative emotions or thinking surrounding the failure. All I can say is that one of the greatest skills we all possess is our ability to decide what something means to us. No one else controls that. You’re in control of your story, define this failure as something deeply inspiring, empowering, educational, a positive life tipping-point if you want, it’s up to you.