Monday Musings…. I’ve Admitted My Failures, Now What?

Last week, I wrote about the inevitability of failure and shifting your focus to the Lifeline that will keep you from sinking. On a practical level now, how do you move forward?

I think one of the hardest things about failure, and likely what generates a lot of fear, is the thought that you’ll never recover from it. The anchor that was tied to your ankles, may have been cut; the bondage of failure may have been broken by the One who can set you free, but now what? There is a lingering fear that you have no idea what to do now. How do you rebuild?

Many people will say: “You can start a new chapter! Look at it as a fresh start! Just turn the page.” This sounds great on the surface, but I’ll tell you that your new chapter will be very short if you listen to that advice. The likelihood of flipping back to the previous chapter and rebuilding the same structure that led to your failure is high.

You know this to be true as you see it all the time: a person ends a bad relationship, only to go back to that dysfunction; or thinking they’ve learned, they start up a new relationship far too quickly and often with someone who has similar traits to the ex. Or the person who starts a diet, loses the weight, only to have it come back as they give in to cravings or ‘cheat’ meals. Then, there is the person who switches to a new career path, only to find it equally unfulfilling, or beyond their competence. Years pass by, dollars are wasted, heartbreak continues, bad habits and poor choices creep back in again. Failure becomes a psychological tattoo, with the personally constantly wondering why they can’t do anything right.

What’s needed after your admission and surrender of your failings is a personal debrief. Debriefing is common practice in the first responder world after a critical incident, and it is equally as important to examine the failures in your own life. This will help you build a solid foundation to truly progress without repeating the problems from the past.

This is not a 5 minute “what did you learn” exercise. It’s a serious self-reflection now that the inessentials have been stripped from you. Ask yourself the following questions:

· What went wrong? Lay out the failure from starting point to colossal end, from the initial slip to the tumultuous fall.

· How did you let yourself get in this predicament? What were you thinking? What were you hoping for?

· Take a hard look at your character and search for any part of it that could have contributed to the failure? Is there something about you that added to the unravelling of the situation? (Even good qualities like selflessness can come back to bite you with the wrong person or in the wrong circumstance.)

· What were the warning signs that you missed?

· Why did you choose to ignore the red flags?

It’s not easy to ask yourself these questions, especially in a culture that wants to protect your fragile ego by inflating your self esteem and covering up your flaws. But doing a debrief is the only way you can get to the starting line again, in order to move forward in the journey of life.

Self-examination is the best recovery mission you will ever do!

In fact, most of you already know what led to the failure, you were just too afraid to admit it.

This is extreme ownership, a term made famous by Jocko Willink. There needs to be a willingness to scour every crevice of your being for your role in the failure. You must absorb the negative feedback, push aside your tendency to blame others, and be willing to endure unpleasant and sometimes life altering consequences. The only way out of the mess of failure is to go through it, not around it, or over it. You must go through.

Once you’ve done the debrief, owned your role in the failure, and you’re ready to rebuild, there is one more step, that you will need to do daily. As philosopher and martial artist Daniele Bolelli said to author Ryan Holiday: training is like sweeping the floor. Just because we’ve done it once, doesn’t mean the floor is clean forever. Everyday the dust comes back. Everyday we must sweep.

To keep yourself on track, to rid yourself of the fear of failure, debrief every day. While this may seem onerous, it will set you free from the pain and regret that flows from failure because now you’ve minimized the chance of failure happening again!

We all fail. But there is a way through. Hold on to the Lifeline that can rescue you from any failure, to the One that can give you hope for the future. Your role is to take ownership, debrief, and sweep the dust in your heart and mind daily!

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© 2020 Connect the Thoughts: Charlene Mahon