There are many occasions in life when we set our heart on something, aim for something or try to achieve something and miss. It might be an exam, a job interview or just a goal of completing our “To Do” list for that day. I know I very often have more on my own “To Do” list than there are hours in the week, let alone the hours in the day that I set aside for working on them. To many, I could be seen as having failed. But if this is you, don’t beat yourself up; be kind to yourself.
Easy words, but more often than not we do the opposite and give ourselves a seriously hard time!
This is often to do with our Western society’s perception that we need to always be striving hard for something, to be actively working hard, and then successfully achieving something, otherwise we are deemed somehow ‘lazy’, ‘inefficient’ or completely ‘worthless’. And most of the time, it is ourselves who are our harshest critics, giving us those labels and wielding the stick.
The problem with this way of thinking is that it leads to a downward spiral of negative thought which is not helpful to us achieving anything.
So if we miss the targets and goals that we set ourselves in life, what should we do?
To my mind, there are 3 possible options:
1) Give up completely telling ourselves that it is just too difficult anyway
If this is your approach to a problem, then you can be sure you will live up to your belief: It WILL be too difficult and you WILL NOT achieve it – EVER!
You have no hope of winning the race if you drop out at the first corner.
In everyone’s life, there will be things and situations that sometimes get in the way. Everyone in the world has moments of writer’s block for example, or days when they are a little off-colour, or the odd sickness that is contracted after a visit to your children’s school! But should that mean you are supposed to give up on all your goals and dreams or, in fit of peak, have you throwing out the baby with the bath water?
Of course not. We only learn through experience, and it is by getting things wrong, that we eventually find the path to success.
So if this is your first thought, I suggest that you at least read further down this blog to see the other options that you could choose instead.
Remember too, that there are many famous people who have failed before going on to become phenomenally successful. Let’s think: what about Henry Ford who couldn’t get financial backing for his first automobiles; Einstein who failed in his first attempt at a polytechnic entrance exam; Walt Disney whose first animation company went bankrupt, and The Beatles – famously rejected by Decca?
What would have happened if they had given up?
I don’t think these are a bad group of people to follow. They never gave up and eventually became some of the most successful people in the world.
2) Give yourself an unbelievably hard time
The second option you have if you ‘fail’ at something is almost worse than the first because it can have such a negative effect on your self-confidence and self-esteem. And that is to give yourself a hard time and start beating yourself up.
When people do this, they start telling themselves that they are useless, that they obviously didn’t work hard enough or that everything they do is bad.
Now this is different to learning from your mistakes and correcting them. We all need to do that to continue and get better. What I’m talking about here is the people who spend hours negatively talking about what they’ve done or not done and blaming themselves unnecessarily and in a way that is totally out of proportion.
It usually sounds something like:
- I’m the worse person in the world
- I knew I’d never be able to do it
- I never do anything right
- I knew it would all turn out wrong
- I’m so hopeless
- Eveything I do is useless
Talking to yourself like this will end up with you putting even more stress on yourself than you need. It may lead you to decide to work even harder by doing extra overtime or more hours than you are physically capable of doing, which may sound like a good idea at the time, but if it leads to a deterioration in your health or personal life, will it be worth it?
Chastising yourself and making yourself feel bad for things that are in the past can only lead to you feeling worse in the present. These phrases are full of negativity and self harm and as such, will only lead to more harm than good. It is very different to a coach or yourself saying what you did right, and then suggesting ways to improve.
There is absolutely no point in beating yourself up over things you cannot change. That way of thinking will only have a negative effect. What’s done is done. Time to move on.
I’m not saying it is not a good idea to learn from what you did or did not do, but I am saying that it is never useful to tell yourself such negative things because in the long run, this approach will not serve you or help you reach your goal.
In teaching, we often use the feedback phrases of WWW and EBI which stand for “what went well” and “even better if”. If you can talk to yourself in kinder terms using phrases such as these, then your chances of success will be greatly enhanced.
3) Recognise and praise yourself for things you have done and generally be much kinder to yourself
This is the option that I recommend if you feel that you have ‘failed’ at anything in your life.
If you can do this, recognise the good that you have achieved, the progress you have made, and make peace with where you are, then you will set up a positive attitude for to help get yourself back on the road to success.
In most situations, there is plenty of time and there will always be something you can learn. There are very few things that cannot be attempted again, and there is usually nothing that is SO urgent that it cannot wait for your to take a step back, regroup and reassess.
Approaching your goal with a positive outlook, an “I can do this” and “all is well” attitude, will not only keep you focused on your goals but will also help your sanity!
Life is not a competitive race; you really do not need to prove that you are better than anyone else; there is nothing that you actually need do in order to feel good – you can feel good about yourself at any time, in any circumstance if you have the right mindset.
The most important thing is that you feel good about whatever you did achieve and the things you are doing now. That way, you can leverage the law of attraction and the power of the universe to help you. If you can align your energy with your goals, then whatever you do, will be easier and you will feel better about.
The problem with not feeling good about what you’ve done is that it leads to us trying to compensate for our lack of vibrational alignment by reverting to option 2 and beating ourselves up again.
And ask yourself this: If you achieved your goal but it put a strain on your health or your marriage resulting in your personal life turning upside down, would it be worth it?
Keeping things in perspective is crucial. Life is supposed to be FUN. You are supposed to ENJOY it!
I’m not saying don’t work hard. I LOVE my work and I work hard at it. But I also allow myself some slack. If things turn up sometimes that take me away, then I try to be kind to myself, acknowledge the good things I’ve achieved, find the lesson in the things I didn’t do, and move on from there.
Why not try to motivate yourself with a carrot, rather than a stick?It will serve you much better in the long run.
So I’ve listed my 3 options when times get tough or you feel you have ‘failed’ at something.
Next time this happens to you, which one are you going to choose?
Remember too: There is support out there.
Your life will be full of people who are willing to help you, but you may have to look again at the people in your life and see what it is you really need – it may be a shoulder to cry on, a pat on the back or just a good old cup of tea. If you are so focused on beating yourself up, you may miss the help that is offered!
There is always hope and there is always something good to come out of every situation. Find the lesson and smile about it.
Please feel free to comment on your success and ‘failure’ stories. There is a lesson in each one of them.