A few years ago, I was struggling with enduring the worst failure I had created for myself.
My business was failing, and as a single mom with two daughters, I was the only breadwinner. Failure just wasn’t an option. At the same time, I was working through one of the biggest heartbreaks of my life.
It felt like I had failed at everything.
I’d failed at being an entrepreneur.
I’d failed at being a mom, who could provide enough money for my kids to do fun things.
I’d failed at romance.
Ah heck, I was just failing at life. Everything sucked.
It seemed pretty bleak. Until, something in me—I’ll happily blame it on the viking stock in me that never gives up—refused to surrender that way. I had worked too hard to just label myself a failure. I wanted to be a success. Damn it, I deserved to be a success!
Success: the ever elusive word that changes meanings to whomever is speaking it.
What does success mean to you?
To me, I was defining it quite literally, like the dictionary definition: “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”
Then I realized I might be taking it too literally. An aim or purpose can be different for every person. What determines success for each individual is the accomplishments of that aim or purpose. Was my aim or purpose clear? Did I even know what it was? How could I even know when I was successful?
I revisited my goals and vision for life and created this:
Have a healthy, happy family, be loved and honoured, have abundance of support both financially and emotionally and be joyful in the process.
Okay, when I looked at it that way, I was still working towards those goals, and I guess I had just come across some speedbumps along the way—albeit massive, mountain-size speed bumps.
It then came to me: if I have taken the steps to define what success means to me, doing just one thing will support me in achieving that success—guaranteed!
What is this “one thing?”
What? No way.
It seemed counter intuitive, it felt wrong—to a perfectionist like myself, it was downright blasphemy.
Yet, human beings are wired to learn the most from their failures.
In fact, it has been scientifically proven, and to further that, scientists are always failing in order to find the answers they seek.
Focusing on a group that fail all the time (I know, because I belong in this group):
Entrepreneurs. Here are some hard facts about them and their business start ups in the United States:
25 percent fail in the first year.
36 percent have failed after the second year.
44 percent have failed after the third year.
This surprised me a great deal.
These statistics can be both shocking and somewhat comforting at the same time. We are taught not to have high expectations, for they will be shattered and we will be sad. But, if we were bold and brave enough to become an entrepreneur in the first place, you will have the gumption to “get over it” and move on. And quite frankly, if we pick up each piece of those shattered expectations and examine them carefully, there will be secret lessons that we would have otherwise missed, had we spent all of our time crying over them.
This was a hard lesson to learn, but it was giving me hope. Hope is what I truly needed during that time in my life. What resulted from this “epiphany” for me was this: To grow and learn is to be alive. Embrace my failures because “failures lead to the answers.” This applies to all areas of our life.
The things we fail at the most are the ones that we are learning the most from.
See those failures as the positive things they are—when we fail you are “leveling up,” so to speak, and if we can learn to accept the situation and look at it objectively, we will indeed graduate to our next “life level.”
Boo ya! So, I was actually succeeding because I was failing. I really liked this concept and decided to make it an everyday belief. It can be hard, because people like to focus on failures, their own and others.
The next time someone tells you that to avoid being disappointed you should just not have expectations, don’t listen.
Have expectations—lots of them. Big ones, small ones and some in between. Keep them great, keep them passionate. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but just hang on. You might get banged up a bit, and sometimes even more than a bit. You might even hit a bump so hard you fall right off your ride. But you will grow and if you aren’t growing, you aren’t really living.
Here are the steps I took on how to accept failure, learn from it and keep living:
1. Feel the situation.
Something has happened and it’s upsetting. Allow these feelings to surface and feel them. Denying or pushing them down will only serve to keep you far away from acceptance. As feeling creatures, we need to feel, express and then move on. So, if you are mad, feel it. Sad? Feel it and cry. Once those feelings have been expressed and cleansed from your system you will have accomplished step one and will be ready to move on to step two. My personal favorite was punching pillows in my bedroom and shrieking my anger and absolute feeling of betrayal. “Life, why have you forsaken me?” Enjoy the drama, but then…
2. Accept the situation.
Understand and know that many things are not under your control. The only thing you can really control is your reaction to what happens around you. Life, and the lessons we learn, is a long process, not a sprint to the finish. I knew when I had accepted something because I felt “peaceful”—still messed up, but peaceful about it. Feel your pain, then accept the loss and then move on.
3. You are not alone.
Working through these “life lessons” can be difficult, yet never impossible. I surrounded myself with like-minded individuals who understood the process. I found a mentor who had been where I was before. It was incredibly wonderful just having someone who could offer a perspective and understanding of the situation that I may have not even considered—yet. Reach out, ask for help within your community.
4. Lighten up and “let go.”
Whatever you have been doing is not working. Okay, so what? Lighten up, let it go and open up your mind to accept new and different approaches. This may require you to step back, take some time away and process. I would just completely drop it and trust something would come to me. It did. You will be hit with inspiration when you least expect it, but you must be open to receive it. So, let it go and open the space up within for the next step.
5. Be a realist.
“It took me 20 years to become an overnight success.” ~ Harry Belafonte in 1956
Let that practicality sink in. Sometimes it can look like everyone else is succeeding but you. It’s not true, it’s never true. Success takes work and commitment. Having a mentor in my life and trusted colleagues, to share this process with, helped me be “real” about it.
This is the most important and final step. Learn, learn, learn. Learn everything you can about what went wrong. Analyze it, bring it under the microscope, ask for feedback and then be open to what you find. Once you reach this state you are ready to get moving on and eventually fail again.
This is process at its best. Once I changed the way I viewed failure I started to succeed beyond my wildest dreams. Success became the ability to meet every challenge head on, work through it and come out the other side with new knowledge. With that definition, I’m a bloomin’ awesome success!
Give it a whirl, I promise, it will turn everything around for you. It sure did for me. Once I was “vibrating” in that positive zone, life started to present me with positive things. It’s amazing how it works, but it certainly does work.
Good luck and enjoy your failures!
The 5 Stages of Failure.
Failure: it’s not what you think!
Author: Kaare Long
Volunteer Editor: Kim Haas/Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock
Photo: Christopher Campbell/Unsplash
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