Stopping the Downward Spiral

Failure can be painful.  It can be humiliating. Embarrassing. It can be a blow to the ego.  Getting fired.  Rejection.  No one showing up for your event.  Failure happens to everyone.  And the more you put yourself out there, the more chances you have to face-plant.  But here’s the thing: Success and failure are on the same path.  There’s a viral misconception that to be successful we must never fail.  This is simply not the case.  In fact, failure may be exactly what we need to experience to give us the skills, understanding, and wisdom to move forward to success (as defined by you).  

I also made a worksheet for you. It breaks down the steps and has additional thought provoking questions to get you started.  Click and we'll send one to you!

My Story

Often the best way to explain a concept is to share a story. To be honest, I actually had a challenge picking just one failure to share.  I’ve been laid off multiple times, frozen in front of audiences, missed deadlines for big projects.  For this blog, I’ve chosen an example from my business to share with you.  Now while this is a business example, the steps I’ll outline in this blog can be applied to anything we consider a setback.  This can be applied to dating, relationships, personal growth, the workplace, school etc.

My story begins at a point in my life when I had been teaching yoga classes for a few years.  I had just taught my very first workshop called Yoga for Authentic Heart Opening.  I was happy that I didn’t have a shut out and with 12 people showing up it was a huge success in my eyes.  It was far from perfect, but I felt an invincibility from the event.  And I felt like my steady effort was paying off. 

Building momentum from the authentic heart workshop, I got excited about doing workshops and I had a lot of new possibilities pouring in.  A couple short months later, in a hurry to get my workshops out before summer, I launched a 3-part series on Overcoming Obstacles, Discovering Your Purpose, and Taming the Dragons of the Mind. To be fair it wasn’t a disaster, but the workshops didn’t draw as many as my very first.  I prepared as well as I could but the content just didn’t land.  After the series I was in a little slump.  I felt the momentum I had built slowed to a halt.  The doubts crept in.  Should I even be teaching yoga at all?  Maybe I should crawl back to my day job as a research chemist?  Do I have the capacity to make a living teaching?

Now what I’ve learned is when things get tough, we can really let the negative thoughts dominate, OR we can take steps to move through the situation.  The better you get at recovering from setbacks, the more energy you can put towards being awesome.  That’s one of the reasons it’s so critical to have a strategy for when things go awry.  I’ve put together steps that you can follow to help you get through any failure. 

The Process of Overcoming Failure

1) Let yourself grieve.  Write out how you feel.  You may even process the experience creatively through art or music.  This may take a few hours to a few days, however, you don’t want to stay in this stage for a great deal of time. This process is about working with emotions and feelings, not ignoring or numbing feelings.  When you’ve given yourself space and time to grieve, then move on to the second step.

2) Fully accept what happened.  What I’ve noticed is this happens in stages.  Begin to really accept the facts.  Simple, but not so easy.

3) Congratulate yourself for trying.  Because you could have easily not tried.  You could have easily not put yourself out there.  You could have easily done what you’ve always done.  But you tried something new. You gave it a shot.  Pat yourself on the back. You can even make a list of all the things (even the tiniest things) you did “right” in the situation.

4) Recognize that failure is on the path to success.  Failure is generally necessary to improve and grow.  After my workshop series flopped, I got real with myself. It would be ridiculous if I was an all-star presenter right out of the gate. What I did was necessary to becoming a skilled presenter.

5) Keep the failure specific.  This is a very important one and so many of us struggle with it.  What I means is this: when my workshops flopped, I started making very broad claims about myself and my abilities. “I’ll never be a successful yoga teacher” or “I’ll never make a living teaching yoga.”  What I actually needed to do was to make my failure as specific as possible.  In this specific instance, at this time of the year, at this specific yoga studio, at this specific time in my career, these three workshops didn’t land and I had a relatively low turnout.  When we do start to make the failure specific, the situation starts to feel better already. 

6) What is the most empowering thought you can have?  Ask yourself that question.  Here is where you can really expand from a failure.  This is the step for growing, adapting and transforming from a failure.  After my workshop series flopped, I might have answered the question this way: “I took a chance, stepped into new territory, and I gained some practice teaching.” This starts to shift our focus from “what went wrong” to “what did I learn.”

Closing Thoughts

When my series flopped, I could have easily quit teaching workshops.  I could have easily decided that I wasn’t a good yoga teacher.  Or that I would never make it.  But, I realized that I was learning.  I realized I was developing skills.  I realized that success doesn’t happen overnight.  So instead of quitting, I did continue to stay with it. I’m not perfect, but I’ve come a long way and I never plan to stop improving (and failing ;-) )  Because failure has brought me to where I am today; a place where I feel incredibly blessed to be doing what I love and empowering people to overcome obstacles.

I remember it whenever I’m debating if I should try something new or not try something new.  If I should step outside my comfort zone. One of my life mantras that keeps things in perspective is this:

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

Setbacks are going to happen.  Setbacks are going to happen frequently if you have any desire to grow and evolve as a person.  It’s not about trying to be perfect, but getting perspective to help you work towards your goals and dreams.  That’s why I wrote this and if you’ve found it helpful, please share it with a friend!  I developed a special worksheet it’s easy to follow and has additional questions to help you work through this process.