Finding Peace in Failure - A Simple Approach to Moving Forward
Failure is scary. Who wants to face loss and admit defeat?
As much as we try to avoid failing, it is an essential part of experiencing life. We can’t always be expected to do the right thing and get the right results. Something goes wrong and we end up with results far from favorable.
With this comes a hefty price tag. We can lose our livelihood, relationships, an opportunity or simply sustain a blow to our ego.
The most expensive cost of failure though is our reluctance to move forward. We tend to freeze where we are, sulk and wallow in our own pain. This state doesn’t help. It keeps us from connecting with our power to overcome and we miss out on learning and growing from the experience.
The other side of failure
You probably heard Thomas Edison’s infamous saying: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
What we learn from our failure can be priceless. Sometimes the only learning opportunity comes from experience, even if it’s not what we want or expect.
The most interesting thing about failure is that it is in direct relation to our actions. So not only are we responsible for what we did, but also it is completely within our ability to turn it around—or at least try.
Looking at failure as the cost of opportunity to achieve or learn something can be liberating and makes it easier to accept the outcome and move on.
A peaceful approach to dealing with failure
When things don’t work out and unfavorable outcomes start piling up, we need to stop and take a breath to determine where we’re at and how we got there. It is necessary to do this before fear and all sort of negative self defeating thoughts start creeping in.
As I write this, I’m dealing with a few investments that are not doing well and the losses are piling up. I started with the process below that I hope can be useful to you.
1. Accept that things are not working.
There is nothing wrong in admitting that your action did not produce the anticipated results. You can call it failure or something else. The important thing is to become aware of the situation and internally accept that what you did is not working.
It took me awhile to accept that some of my investing decisions were not working for me. At the beginning, I looked at the numbers and thought things will get better, but they didn’t—they got worse. It was time to accept the fact that I haven’t made the best of decisions.
2. Evaluate the course of action you took.
What you are doing is not necessarily wrong, it’s just not working for you. Take time off and reevaluate.
What and why did you make the decision in the first place? Would you make the same decision today? Or did the circumstances change?
I answered the above questions for every investment on my losses list. I determined if I would still buy them today or let them go.
3. Weigh your options.
Once you’ve determined the reasons for taking action in the first place and how you got there, it is time to think about what action you can take today to deal with your situation.
In the case of my investments I had a choice of doing nothing and riding it out, selling at a loss or averaging my cost down by buying additional shares at a lower price.
4. Make a decision.
Based on your options above, decide what course of action works best for you now. Be clear about what you want to achieve. Make sure that your decision is coming from a calm and composed state—not from fear or a bruised ego.
After a failed attempt, it is easy to fall into a pattern of avoiding any decision making. After all, if we don’t decide, nothing can go wrong. Indecision can complicate the situation making the outcome harder to deal with. It is best to face the music and move on.
In my investing example, I started researching every stock on my losing list and made a decision to buy more, hold or sell.
5. Do it.
If you made a decision then it is time to act and do it. If you don’t, you will continue to deal with negative outcomes that will compound your fear and anxiety.
If your decision was to do nothing, commit to it. In this case, your action is to stick to your initial decision as the best option for you now.
In my losing investments example I sold one stock and decided to hold the rest, ignoring market jitters.
6. Revisit if, or when, needed.
If your new decision works out better and you are moving forward, then good for you. If not, repeat the process and determine what you can do today.
With every experience, we become more aware of how and why we act. With this knowledge, we can make better decisions.
7. Embrace the freedom of making mistakes.
If after all your attempts, things still aren’t working out, be grateful for the opportunity and consider dropping the entire project. It might not be the right fit for you.
Having the freedom to decide and act is a blessing and a privilege. Make the best decisions you can and be grateful for the chance to do so—even if you fail or make a few (or more than a few) mistakes.
If you have failed lately, give yourself a pat on the back for having the courage to do something and commit to it.
And don’t forget to look at the overall picture. If one thing didn’t work out but the rest is fine, keep what you perceive as failure within the context of your larger achievement.
When you undertake something new, things can work out or not. The potential for failure is embedded in every experience. The trick is to allow failure to be your compass in finding your way to success.