Failure can be catastrophic. It can hit you in an instant or it can slowly ebb into your life over time. However it shows up in your life, along whatever path, it can have the power to change who you are at your very core. It can cause you to question who you really are and what your very purpose on this earth is. It can be a life changer.
What many people don’t realize is that there is a grieving process that hits you when these types of events happen in your life. There is a sense of loss and yearning that can nor away at your insides, shredding your self-esteem and sense of worth to bits.
Because I’ve been there I can understand. For me it took over 9 months before I started feeling even a semblance of my former self. And it wasn’t until I’d come through the other side and looked back, that I realized I had gone through the grieving process, those seven stages of grief you have no doubt heard of.
So if you are going through the aftermath of life altering failure or you know someone who is, know that it is absolutely normal to grieve. There is a process to it, similar to any loss.
The seven steps of overcoming failure are:
1) Shock and Disbelief – This may last for a moment of drag on for weeks, if not months. It’s that tightness in your chest, or the feeling of the pit of your stomach just dropping away. It’s the stunned silence when everyone wonders if you’re really ok and tells you how well you’re doing. In reality it just hasn’t sunk in yet. You keep hoping this is a joke or a dream. You keep an ounce of hope within you that someone, somewhere has made a mistake, that what’s going on at the moment will be turned around and you’ll laugh about it in a few months time. This is when you wish life was like a movie.
2) Pain and Guilt – This is when reality starts to finally set in and the hope is gone. ‘What if?’ and ‘if only…’ start to become regular thoughts through your head. Its when the analyzing starts and your self image starts to take a down hill fall (at least it was in my case). Its when you think that if you’d done something differently you wouldn’t have failed, if you’d just tried harder, been faster, not said anything etc. This is when crying at the drop of a hat starts and the crushing feeling across your chest is an everyday experience.
3) Anger – The analyzing of what you could have done differently has worn you out to the point that your self-esteem is in shatters. You may even genuinely hate yourself. This is when the anger towards yourself boils over and the name calling begins. ‘Loser’, ‘failure’, and ‘worthless’ are a few that may surface. At this point your temper can flare at the people around you and the anger and rage you feel for yourself and your life can be channeled towards the people who are trying to support you.
4) Depression and loneliness – When I am depressed or feel like a failure I shut myself off from the world. I pull back into myself and don’t seek out support. So by this stage you may be feeling increasingly alone, as the people in your life may have also pulled back to give you space, or you may feel that no one in your life understands what you’re going through and you may feel increasingly socially isolated. This is when feelings of depression can take hold and crush your ability to find joy in any areas of your life. You may start to feel overwhelmed and feel that your life will never get better. You may start to feel numb to life and everything in it. But as the saying goes, it’s always darkest before the dawn.
5) Acceptance – You finally accept what has happened and you accept that you cant go on living the rest of your life in the state that you’re in. You may not be fully over the anger, or stopped crying all the time, but you have accepted that the failure you experienced was real and that no amount of wishing is going to change that. This is when you consciously or subconsciously decide to start the process of pulling yourself back together.
6) Hope and Future Seeking - In this stage you will actively be looking to get your life back on track. It may be searching for a new dream, creating a blueprint of your perfect mate, or even researching the latest weight loss information or business start up guides. What ever it is it will be something that makes you look towards the future with hope. You may get your determination back, or your drive, passion and daring. Whatever it may be you will finally start to feel a little bit like yourself again. This is when you will start to feel like you have been asleep for a long time and the covers are finally being lifted back.
7) Reconstruction – You start the process of rebuilding who you are, what you want, and every other aspect of your life that has been affected by your failure and the aftermath of it. You start to reframe what your failure meant and decide to not allow it to rule or define your life. This is the point when you make decisions that will help define the rest of your life and, hopefully, allow you to live your life free of fear, disappointment, and self-loathing. This is when you decide to take charge of your life and be the unique, amazing individual that you know you are.
The seven steps of overcoming failure can be experienced differently by all people, depending on the nature and severity of how they view their failure. But the one thing we must all remember is that nothing in this life is permanent and the sorrows and struggles of today will one day be seen as circumstances that gave us the strength and resilience to pursue our dreams, create new ones, and strive for the life we deserve.
Make the choice in your life to never let a perceived failure stop you from dreaming big and reaching your astounding potential. Its ok to grieve your loss but never allow it to define the rest of your life.
Is there anything you would add to this list?
Let me know in the comments below.