There is a myth around the word failure that goes something like this:

Because I have failed-I am a failure!

We have tried something big or little, heroic or just a little outside of our comfort zone, and come up short. We have failed. We did not meet whatever goal, spoken or not, that we intended to meet. And now, because we invested in accomplishing something important (ate least to us) and failed, there is a quiet voice in our head that begins to tell us that we should never try again. Why? “Because”, the voice will explain, “those that fail are failures and to try again will just add to the hurt!” We may ignore the voice and try again, but every time things don’t work out according to plan the voice gets louder-

“You have failed. You are a failure. It’s just who you are. Learn to accept it.”

This myth (myth-a widely held but false belief or idea) will keep us from living the life that we have been created to live simply because we DECIDE that we don’t want to try anymore. We might as well say, “It hurts too much. It costs too much. I guess this is just who I am. I am content to simply exist.” Accepting the identity of failure is something that you can do but it is a decision that you make. Failure is something that happens. It only becomes who you are when you let it.

So, assuming you do not want to allow failure to become your identity, what do you do when things don’t go according to plan?  You have three options:

1. Keep fighting

Sometimes the best thing you can do when things don’t go according to plan is pause, take a step back, and figure out what didn’t work. Maybe the goal is the right goal but some mistakes were made that can be fixed next time. Treat the “failure” as an opportunity to learn and try again with a better plan. Don’t give up.

2. Find a new fight

Failure can be a great way to learn that we are not fighting the right fight. We want to accomplish something great, but we are going after the wrong “something”. It is fair, when a plan does not come together the way that we thought it would, to ask the question, “Am I investing in the right place?” Get some perspective and, if necessary, treat “failure” as an opportunity to invest in a goal more in line with who you are and what you should be doing. We cannot all do everything and our time, emotions and finances are finite resources. Make sure you are investing them where you will get the biggest return.

3. Call for help

Most of us are so emotionally invested in the pursuits of our own lives that we have a hard time evaluating our failures. We are so close to what has happened that it is nearly impossible to decide if we should keep fighting because this is a goal worth pursuing or find a new fight where our resources will be better used. Calling for help allows us to get the perspective of someone who can see things clearly and has our best interest in mind. They want us to succeed and will give advice that will equip us to do so. This person will also speak truth when we feel like accepting the title “failure” and will help us to get up when we fall down.

Refuse to allow failures and shortcomings to become your identity. They may be a part of your story, but they do not define who you are unless you allow them to. When you fail, and we all will, step back, get some perspective, ask for help, and keep moving forward.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Jeremy Stalnecker is the Executive Director of the Mighty Oaks Foundation which is dedicated to helping America’s military warriors and their families who are suffering from the unseen wounds of combat. While growing up Jeremy’s only goal was to leave home and join the Marine Corps. This dream was finally realized with an active duty commission in 1999 which opened the door to serve as a Marine Infantry Officer during the opening days of the war in Iraq. One month after returning from Iraq, Jeremy entered full-time ministry and eventually accepted a senior pastor role. He later accepted a full-time position with the Mighty Oaks Foundation which brought together his ministry and military experience in a way that allows him to minister to hurting veterans, service members and their families. Along with his wife and their four children, Jeremy works to reach the hurting and provide healing found in Christ.

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