Failure is a part of life. You can call it whatever you want, a setback, an emotional let down, a breakup, a loss, but part of the reason why the experience is so incredibly painful is because at some level you feel you failed. You might be reluctant to admit this even to yourself, so you outwardly you label it as growing pains or transition; however, inwardly you’re a mess.
Here are five ways to cope with failure:
1. Examine the truth. This burns and isn’t fun; yet, healing and recovery generally begins when the truth is exposed. Lies keep you in the dark and however you try to spin your situation the bottom line is that the truth matters. Too often people attempt to dilute the situation with fancy words or a cute story, but this only delays the pain. And delaying the pain can cause more conflict.
For example, if you see your recent financial decision causes a decrease in the weekly household income, be truthful about this. Don’t try to cover it up with by telling yourself in four months it will be different. By not addressing this your now, you are pretending that nothing happened. This is how the problem festers. Eventually, the situation grows out of control and then needs a professional intervention.
2. Become transparent with yourself. Transparency is necessary. When mistake occur, there is emphasis on forgiving others, including yourself. However, you can’t forgive yourself for that which you are not transparent with. And you can’t fully forgive yourself as long as you minimize the error. This doesn’t mean that you are overly critical of yourself, but it means being honest. Instead of telling yourself that your business is closing because one manager made poor decisions, be truthful and examine your role in this situation. Ask yourself: Did you look the other way when there was business conflict? Were you overly harsh in meetings so that it made communication difficult?
These same questions can be used when a relationship is torn. I’m not referring to any type of abusive relationship, rather, a relationship where conflict occurred and healing didn’t take root.
Part of making sure that you don’t find yourself in this type of situation again is being able to do an accurate assessment. As long as you hold back and rationalize, justify or minimize your shortcomings, a barrier to the truth still exists. And that barrier is you.
3. Give yourself permission to feel the pain. After a failure occurs, the immediate mode for many is moving onward because very few desire to be present with pain. This is why when pain exists people often use a substance to dilute the intensity of the hurt. Some people use work to avoid the pain. However, learning to be present with the pain is critical in healing. This is not a sign of weakness.
When you immediately cover the pain you don’t know and remember what your emotional baseline is so when healing does begin to occur you can’t recognize it. Failure hurts but healing is possible.
Sometimes after a romantic relationship ends the one who feels dumped quickly finds another person to date. Weeks later they are dating the same personality only with a different name. Why does this happen? Instead of being still with their pain and fully healing, they use another relationship as a distraction and find out that this is a repeat experience of the previous relationship.
In many articles and books that address emotional pain, there is an emphasis on finding meaning and purpose in your pain. Finding a greater meaning can’t occur if you aren’t able to rest in the pain.
4. Commit to being open to the bigger lessons. This is when being willing to be a student of life is so important. When you think you are certain of everything and that life has nothing to teach you, then you will repeat your mistakes. Learning a new way to see situations can be the very key to your next success.
Learning is a humbling experience. You become aware of all that you didn’t know. When you see the deficits in your knowledge base, use this as an opportunity to grow and change.
As a student, your greatest teachers might be the people you least expect to impact you. However, when you are open to learning from all, you will find that the person next to you might be your guide. Sometimes it is not the person with the fancy Ivy League degree that will provide you with better vision.
5. Be willing to change. A popular quote from Mahatma Gandhi is “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” I wholeheartedly agree with this quote, but sometimes, I think that we can’t impact true change in our own lives and the lives of others until we change ourselves.
Change at all levels is possible. And sometimes the greatest changes come within and how we decide what lens to view our situation.
Kristin Meekhof is a speaker, writer and author of the book, A Widow’s Guide to Healing (with cover blurbs from her friend Deepak Chopra, MD and Maria Shriver- Sourcebooks, 2015). Kristin is also a contributor to the Live Happy book (HarperElixir, 2016). She is a licensed master’s level social worker, obtained her B.A. from Kalamazoo College, and completed the M.S.W. program at the University of Michigan. Recently, Kristin was invited to the United Nations to attend the CSW60 conference where she introduced Lord Loomba. She can be reached via her website.