Navigate Failure Like a Pro
A clear pool of water.
A violent storm passes through.
The sandy, mucky bottom is disturbed and the water is no longer clear. Navigating underwater is no longer possible until the dust settles.
And yet…most of us who are driven in our goals and passions insist on pushing through the disturbed, mucky waters even when we can no longer see clearly.
Our whole lives we receive the message that if we fail at something, we just need to try harder, push harder, work harder until we find success. But often in that process, our vision and the way we treat ourselves suffer. Eventually we lose ourselves, forget our Why and burnout sets in.
I have had some major “failures” in my time – failed performances, failed relationships, failed business opportunities. But one of the most important things I have learned through all the failures is that our hardest times are when we have to be the gentlest with ourselves.
When we feel the most vulnerable, when we have given our all to something and it hasn’t turned out the way we thought it “should,” that is not the time to become more militant and demand more results from ourselves. All that does is reinforce performance-based self-worth.
During our most difficult times, sometimes the best thing to do is to ease up a bit.
There have been countless times in my journey where I have used this principle. When I keep pushing myself after a failure without stopping to evaluate where I am, I usually can’t see the forest for the trees.
My perspective is skewed by disappointed expectations and self-judgment at that point. You can’t navigate in a storm without paying attention to the condition of the ship. Simply being more driven is not the answer.
When life disappoints our expectations, we have to slow down, reassess the waters, assess the condition of the ship, and gain new perspective. Sometimes all you need is a little time to pass in order to do the proper assessments, like in the 24 Hour Rule.
Other times you need concrete steps to take to know how best to proceed. Here are three ways you can be gentler with yourself during a hard time in order to be successful:
- Slow down. Don’t just push harder toward the goal if you sense that you are close to burnout or that your worth is suffering because of the failures you have experienced. Notice what went wrong, how you are feeling about it, and how it affects your drive toward your goal.
- Accept it. So you didn’t win the competition. Maybe you felt like you made a fool of yourself in the presentation. The harsh reality is that it is what it is. You can’t change the past. You can’t change other people, places, or things. You are disappointed, frustrated even, and that is just the present state of things. That’s ok, so do what you need to do to find acceptance.
- Invite a higher-level perspective. After you slow down and accept where you are, you have cleared the way for a bird’s-eye view of your situation to come. It’s like letting the dust settle after a storm. Often times, we don’t see the purpose behind a “failure” until much later. But when we let the dust settle, a new level of clarity about our direction becomes apparent.
It does no good to push ourselves beyond our capacity when we are already stretched to the limit by disappointment or failure. The best things we can do are look at where we are as a new spot and then actually take the time to determine the wisest next steps.
Being gentle doesn’t mean being weak or wasting time.
It means taking the time to arrive at the very best perspective that will lead to an effective plan of action. And our character will grow faster if we are gentle than if we were to blindly advance in the path of our last direction that didn’t get us where we wanted to go.
So get the right perspective, then get up and go for it!
Have you ever tried to just keep pushing yourself when maybe you would have benefitted from being gentler?
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