People who know me are very much aware of my inherent lack of drive to ruminate over the past. I get frustrated and upset just like anyone else, but I am severely uninterested in re-litigating old news. I don't think I was born this way. In reflecting on my past, it seems that the change in my attitude towards failure began while I was away in a boarding middle and high school. During that time of my life, I had two options when it comes to coping: (1) cry daily because I was being maltreated by older students and school staff or (2) summon the courage to move on after every incident. To be completely honest, I cried like a baby for the first year. Eventually, I realized that I need to stop crying and start living. The punishments from older students will not stop and I could no longer come up with the amount of energy necessary to stay upset. I chose to refocus my energy into completing my school work regardless of the inhumane behaviors of people that I cannot influence. At a rather young age, I taught myself to never forget my ultimate goal despite the shenanigans designed to knock me off course.
I know we may not have the same life experiences and your path may have been sharply different from mine. Your journey to adulthood may have been more atrocious or more blissful than mine. Regardless of what path you have been, one thing is inherently constant: the past is a lesson. You can choose to find the lessons learned and the silver linings or you can blame it on other circumstances beyond your control. Some deal with the past by ruminating endlessly about what they could have done differently while some act as if it never happened. Both of the aforementioned coping strategies are on extreme sides of the pendulum. Success, progress, forgiveness, and acceptance comes from somewhere in-between.
As you decide what to do with the massive life blow that you have been dealt, it is important that you keep an open mind. I agree. This is difficult to do when you are feeling inadequate and disappointed in yourself. As a matter of emotions, it is easier to beat yourself up and mope in failure. Eventually, however, you will get tired of the emotions and then the question becomes - how do you move on from this? It is not going be easy, but it is not impossible if you utilizes these approaches as you process the situation:
Never Hold Grudges
Regardless of what the situation is or how the failure transpired, it will do you no good to hold a grudge against someone or yourself for the negative outcome. I know that getting mad and staying mad when we experience failure is an almost automatic reaction to screwing something over. However, you have to get out of your own head as you process the situation. From a more factual perspective, holding grudges is the reason why 62.1% of Americans reported a drop in the Gallup Poll (2017) that surveyed the well-being index in all 50 United States. Holding grudges affect your well-being negatively because it almost always results in unhappiness. In other words, you are more likely to stay unhappy about your situation if you continue to hold a grudge against yourself or someone else for the failure that you experienced. Learn your lesson. Let it go.
Failure is not always personal. There is no clique somewhere working tirelessly against you. There is no coworker who keeps setting you up to fail. It is not simply because you are black. It has nothing to do with the fact that you are white. There is no vindictive boss who just does not like you. Your business partners are not ganging up against you. Your relationship was not “destined” to fail and it is definitely not your husband's grandma from the village. Defaulting to these assumptions and assertions every time something bad happens prevents you from logically analyzing the situation. While there may be some complicating factors beyond your control, this sought of victim mindset about failure and challenges pushes the blame off to someone or something else. To move forward, you have to be okay with the fact that there is not always an explanation for every mishap. Life happens. Use logic, not just heart. Be reasonable, not implausible because everything is possible.
Accept and Reset
The most difficult aspect of moving on with your life is accepting what has happened in your life. This is difficult for many because sometimes the thought of “accepting” feels like a burden or a guilty verdict. Truth is, sometimes, you do have to take the blame for those jacked up decisions that you made. It may feel like a burden because you have been avoiding it for a while and now you are having to relive the situation to move on. Some people experience a feeling of guilt when in reality they have not done anything wrong to cause the failure. Others may be seeking an apology because some other person actually caused the failure they experienced.
Regardless of which scenario applies to you, acceptance requires self-content. As you decide to accept and reset your life, you may feel other kinds of emotions that you have been avoiding. Negative emotions like sadness, anger, and self-doubt can become overwhelming during this time of acceptance. Seek professional support if the emotions are too grave. Whatever you do, make sure to keep your eye on the ultimate goal which is to reset. Acknowledge the various feelings as you experience them, but don’t get stuck in them for too long. Always remind yourself to move forward after feeling what you need to feel. This emotional roller coaster may linger for a while before your brain and mind begin to get the fact that you are not giving up on your future awesomeness. Be patient. Be amiable with who and how you are right now. Stop waiting for someone to come and apologize to you before you reset. Most importantly, consider letting yourself off the hook. Remind yourself that you are imperfect. Accept what was, reset for what will be, and start striding.
In essence, failure is inevitable throughout life. Most people do not set out on a path to fail miserably. We all want to grow and we all desire to have minimum obstacles as we build our future. Fortunately and unfortunately, life has its own plans for you and I. If you are already familiar with the ideas and strategies presented in this article, you are halfway to living a life that moves you forward. If you are not familiar, it is time to spend some quality time growing your emotional readiness for the day that you will need it. You are not invisible. Eventually, you will fail at something and you will need to pick yourself up and move forward.
How have you pulled yourself out of a life hiccup in the past? Share your experiences…
Author - Ganiyat Badmus, LCSW-C | Mental Health Therapist
Gallup, Inc. https://news.gallup.com/poll/221588/americans-declines-2017.aspx