Failure Success

What to do with Failure?


It’s a term that is as difficult to define as success.

After doing some minor research, every dictionary I looked at — 10 to be precise — Failure means the lack of success, or unsuccessful.

It can also mean to cease functioning. Think of your heart,  or your vehicle.

It’s easy to associate Failure in an absolute way when we think of heart failure.

I tend to think in terms of right and wrong, hard defined boundaries, and statistical data that shows me what’s what…hence Failure is perceived as a hard and fast consequence to every little thing I do, or think.

But ceasing to operate properly—e.g. a heart attack because it stopped pumping life—which is absolute, the lack of success can be abstract.

The definition gets cloudy and gray.

It has a lot to do with how we view success.

For me, staying out of debt is a level of success.

Yet, there are times when I feel like a failure because I didn’t do this or that just right, or why the hell did I say this or do that?

I can be rocking it in one area in life and yet, feel like such a turd.

It’s as if I know what success is in my mind or on paper, like reaching a goal, but for some reason when (not if) I make a mistake, or worse, DO NOT meet some sort of internal expectation, BAM!…I exclaim to myself, “I am a failure!”

Then, I spend an inordinate amount of time raking myself over the coals with self-inflicted anxiety, worry, and frustration—which keeps me awake at night with reruns of my “failures” of the past, which steals precious rest for tomorrow and sets me back emotionally going into a new day.

Once that happens, it turns into a vicious cycle.

I hate cycles that seem to suck the life out of me and leave me feeling like an absolute idiot.

So, to break the chain of events that ultimately lead to a downward spiral, until I finally crash in despair, I’ve incorporated a few things that help me place failure, success, and even life in a far better perspective than ever before.

  • Accept I’m human. I know that sounds simple, but until I realized that I’m not perfect, and never will be, I labored under the worse taskmaster in my mind: Perfectionism. I never allowed myself wiggle room to be human.
  • Lower my expectations. I have high expectations. Not just of my performance at work, in business, or professional, but with life—how it works…er, how it should work. Timelines I have for myself, expectations, as to when success should happen…NEVER lines up with reality. That goes for about everything else in life.
  • Reflect, but don’t hold onto emotions. When you discover you’ve forgotten something so simple—like “where’s my sunglasses?!”…”Um, they’re on top of your head, Honey.”—you can feel so stupid. Then, for me, the self-beating begins…”Ugh. If I wasn’t so stupid. So forgetful, such a failure!”

I find that being able to reflect without holding the heat of the emotion at that moment, is far less nerve wracking. Reflect is what a mirror does, it bounces the image off of it. The opposite occurs with a glass pane where it soaks up and retains the heat of the sun. When I stumble, I reflect how I did so, and then come up with a plan that will circumvent that issue next time. When I reflect, I usually discover that I’m not being mindful of the situation before me, I’m not in the present, and thus, I forget things I shouldn’t.

  • Treat myself better…with dignity and respect. This is hard. I have tortured myself because once the heat strikes me of my self-imposed failures and I retain that heat, I become more frustrated and do something stupid to myself: hit a wall, throw a tool (once it cost me a new window in my garage), beat myself up in the gym, and even deny myself sleep until I can work the problem out—usually by fretting myself to the point of exhaustion.

Someone shared with me that when we come to this place where we feel like we’ve failed, to treat ourselves like a small child on the side of the roadway that is lost. We don’t yell at the child for getting lost, we soothe her crying and fears with soft words, gather her up with compassionate arms, and help her find home again.

  • Be grateful. I have found that I can NOT be angry at myself when I practice gratitude. Just the other day, I was upset with myself for forgetting somethings and that turned into a pity party. I felt the heat under the skin with anger and the knot in my gut. I shifted my focus after some reflection into the matter and took a deep breath. I was outside and noticed the birds chirping, the leaves beginning to bud out, then other things like how grateful I am to be alive and have love in my life. It changed my outlook within a few minutes.


Instead of screaming at myself, I remind myself I’m human, I’m not perfect, and then I reflect on what went wrong and how can do better next time.

The reflection has helped with coming up with a battle plan for the next day and if I don’t quite hit the mark, I look at the progress I did make and am grateful for it.

If anything, I’m grateful that I’m no longer spending precious time and energy freaking out over things, like being a failure.


Photo by Fathromi Ramdlon

Posted by Christian Martin Jr.