“You can spend your whole life building somethin’ from nothin’. One storm can come and blow it all away. Build it anyway.” – Martina McBride
We all have been there at some point: We give our best, we try the hardest and we expect for the best; yet, nothing we do seems to be enough and the end results are far from optimal.
Discouragement is inevitable.
What do we do when our best is not good enough?
Of Failing and Failures
First of all, let’s set one thing clear: Failing does not mean being a failure. EVERYONE fails. Even those whom you admire the most have failed a great deal, because nothing meaningful is achieved without failing.
The fact that you have failed means that you have not figured out (yet) the correct set of actions needed to achieve a particular goal. But true failure only comes when we give up, when we do not try again. As long as you keep standing up and looking for a new way to get from point A (where you are right now) to point B (where you want to be), failure is not even a possibility.
Time to Grieve
When we give our 100% and yet we fail (sometimes repeatedly), we cannot avoid feeling discouraged about ourselves and (in some cases) about everyone and everything else. This stage is best described by a sense of hopelessness.
This is particularly common when we face what we believe to be the end of a dream, whether in the way of the ending of a relationship, a professional goal that is not longer viable by factors outside of our control or desire or by the impossibility to achieve a personal goal. In extreme cases this can be compared to the death of a loved one.
The ending of a long-term relationship means not only the end of the physical connection between two persons, but also the end of a lifetime of plans together, the end of many projects and dreams and also the end of the person we were previous the break up. We, as individual, are changed by the end of the relationship. We are forced to reinvent ourselves, and when we do not know how to do this, or when we believe we are unfit for such task, we can sink into despair.
In the same way, even when not everybody can relate to this, the ending of a professional relationship or an enterprise can be as traumatic as the end of a romantic connection. Many people invest as much time, effort and emotional commitment to their careers, as others in their personal relationships.
An accident can be just as traumatic, not only physically, but also emotionally. We can be forced to experience life in a way unknown to us.
It is only logical that such traumatic experiences come with its fair share of grief. Because that is precisely what we experience after a these particularly hurtful moments: The death of life as we knew it.
How Many Times Will It Take To Get It Right?
Often we wonder if it would serve any good to try again. Especially when we have tried and failed more than once.
At this point it is of utmost importance to acknowledge that our past experiences (even, and especially, the not-so-pleasing ones) have served a purpose: We are now stronger and wiser that what we were before. We know more now than what we knew before.
Never forget that improvement is not measured by the distance between where you currently stand and the finish line, but by the distance between where you currently stand and your starting point.
Healing is the Way
Before we can start to heal, we must acknowledge some things that we often forget:
We cannot undo the past: No matter how bad our mistakes might have been, no matter how much we might have hurt those we love, no matter how much effort and time we might have wasted, there is no way to change the past. What’s gone, it’s gone. It’s natural that we grieve for a period of time, but no amount of regret will change what have been. Forward is the only way, and the sooner we accept this, the sooner we will heal.
We deserve to heal: Often we cling to regret or resentment as a mean of punishing ourselves for the times we have failed. Sometimes we feel we don’t deserve to feel better. But we do.
It will get better: Time heals everything, they say. And it does, as long as we are willing to allow our wounds to heal. Be patient with yourselves and your flaws. If you feel defeated, then allow yourself to feel defeated for a period of time, but also allow yourself to heal when the time is right.
We all fail, and it always feels bad. We might know we can make the best out of our failures, and sometimes, with time, we might even acknowledge that our failures were a blessing in disguise; but it always feels bad at first. Even worse when we have invested everything we have, whether physically or emotionally, and when we have lost it all.
Understanding that failing is a natural phase of life is important, but it is also important to understand that big failures come with an emotional fee that we might have to pay before we can get better.
The next time you fail, and feel bad about it, remember is not the end of the world, but also give yourself time and space to heal naturally.
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