When Things Go South

By Ken Wells - 11/19/2021


Series Two; Blog Eighty-One

Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.—Napoleon Hill

If you have lived long enough you probably have experienced disappointment and failure in some endeavor that hurts so bad that every part of your existence just aches. We usually don’t talk about them. The pain and discouragement triggers so much shame that flashes of memory instigate a desire to deflect the memory any way you can. Sometimes it seems as if you cannot get out of your own way.

I remember a few devastating failures in my life. When I was a senior in high school the varsity football team that I played on was embarrassing. Our new head coach printed 20,000 green and gold GO-GO-9-0 bumper stickers and plastered them all over the city. His vision was to transform a group of rag-tag boys who were not very good at football into a championship team. Everyone was excited including me. Our first game was against a school that was one-third the size of my school. We lost that game by one point. That was the only close game we had the entire season. Kids began to chant adjusted mantras after each defeat. For example, “Have Fun at 8 and 1”, after our first loss. Then it was “Can’t be Blue with 7 and 2”, after the second loss.  After the third loss it was “Get in Free at 6 and 3”.  Each game was a lopsided score in defeat. We became the laughingstock of not just the school but the entire town. Everywhere we went there would be jab and jive about the next mantra after last Friday night’s defeat. Later during class reunions, I would get with former teammates, and we would kid each other about how awful we were. But, at the time I played it hurt me deeply. It was immensely painful to not be competitive on the football field. I felt lost and extremely embarrassed.

Another time I sold Bible books in college during the summer time. It was the hardest job in all of my life. I worked so hard and made so little money. It was embarrassing and I was chided and ridiculed when I returned to college during the Fall. Both of these experiences of failure riveted my soul with physical and emotional pain. When we face devastating losses, there is a tendency to want to scrape it from awareness and to try to categorize them as failures to be forgotten. 

This blog is about those very painful experiences in life that you want to forget. Everyone faces debilitating defeat. It could be an historical defeat in sports, a firing from a job, a relationship failure, a recovery relapse or any other area of life. The question is when you have been crushed and defeated, how do you put yourself back together and push forward when it hurts the most?

Here are a few suggestions to consider:

Cocoon yourself from the ravages of defeat and disappointment.  When you are hurting from an emotional wound, take time to heal. Some people try to rebound too quickly. Emotionally, you will need to grieve, rest your body and tend to your broken spirit before moving on. Even, when you face time pressure to accept a new opportunity, you will need to create a private sanctuary where you can unpack the past painful experience.

Resilience requires that you renew your visions in life. Maybe you are spent and wasted from your recent endeavor. If it’s a relationship failure, you will need to chill out, find a mentor and explore what went wrong. Understanding your unhealthy contribution to a destructive relationship will help you break the chain of engaging unhealthy relationships. Only then will you be able renew your vision for a future successful connection with another partner. Regardless of your catastrophic failure, open your heart, remind and restore the principles, convictions and deep beliefs that guide you. Do this before you engage in a new start.

Living in consultation with accountability is important to get back on track. Failure is a force that can knock you away from centered living. Discouragement eats away at congruency. It’s easy to lose yourself in your hypocrisy and become inconsistent to the plan or program you committed to. Consultation is an ongoing strategy that helps to bring you back to center. You will need to be coachable and willing to do something different than what got you stuck in your failure. This is easier said than done. Set aside your defensiveness and with humility do the next right thing suggested by a mentor. Then tighten accountability to those who make sense. You will be good to go for moving forward.

Fail forward by stalking the shame that shrouds the results.  Screwing up shakes confidence. Yet, everyone makes mistakes. When you make a bad choice face the failed results and commit to failing forward. It sounds like a no brainer! What it means is to act on what you know is the right solution or behavior independent of how you feel about doing so.  Shame drains inspiration and screams at you that you do not have what it takes to achieve the desired result. Only when you courageously choose and act on a new behavior are you able to fail forward.

Condition your spirit with positive affirmation. This is an age old practice that is often avoided because you have to exercise and build up your belief in yourself.  Overcoming failure intense enough to make your heart ache requires that you embrace a new way of visualizing who you are and the results you would like to create. Actions are built from the way you think. Behavior is a better barometer to measure thoughts about yourself than words. Finding meaningfulness in painful memories demands a foundation of thought that is free from judgment. It promotes an understanding that in reality there is no sense of failure. You just produce results. So when things go south in your life what you do with the results you produce is more important than the judgment you assign to them. Your willingness to forgive yourself and others for missteps is what brings you in harmony with the universe. 

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