No one likes to fail, especially at something as important as personal finances. The pain of financial stress and the shame and fear that accompany it are difficult to bare. Yet, it’s unreasonable to think you can achieve financial success without experiencing some failures along the way. Some degree of failure or setbacks, as much as we wish they weren’t, are inevitable. What determines your future success is what you do after you fail.
Recently, I took a very difficult test, which I failed. I knew it would be a long shot to pass it the first time since the statistic show that 80% of those who test, fail the first time. This did not comfort me as I sat in my car after the test was over. I sat there for a while wrestling with my thoughts and emotions.
Thoughts of quitting were entertained, but in the end, I assessed the situation and determined I would try again. I’m no stranger to failure, as I’m sure neither are you. The difference between today and 25 years ago, is that I’m better at processing failure.
I’ve learned that failure is not about who I am. Failure is something that happens to me, sometimes because of my own doing and sometimes because of circumstances out of my control. I am not a failure even when I fail unless I decide to quit and let the failure define me.
Failure, including financial failure, is very common among some of the most successful and wealthiest people we know. In fact, most of them say early failure is what motivated them toward their success. They were not willing to go down without a fight, to be defined by their failure, and that’s the secret to their success, they learned from their failures and refused to give up.
4 things to do when you fail
1. Embrace the fact that failure is part of the journey
You don’t know what you don’t know. Lack of knowledge or experience often leads to failure. However, if you have the right perspective on what failure is, it will not deter you from your future success. The definition of failure is, “the action or state of not functioning,” which really means a specific way of doing something did not work. The good news is, there are often other ways.
Thomas Edison performed one thousand tests before he was able to make the incandescent light bulb work. To Edison, each test provided a result, “a failure” that served to prove that a specific element he was testing did not work. His process of testing over and over eliminated many elements until he came upon the one that finally worked.
2. know that Failure is not about you
It’s not easy to separate your failure from who you are, but you must. What’s important to remember is that failure is not about who you are personally, it is the result of the action you take. It’s much harder to bounce back when you take failure and connect it to your personality or your value as a person.
To the people who love you, who you are does not change whether you fail or succeed. Your friends and family love you for who you are not what you do. Equally important, experiencing failure will often make you wiser and more compassionate, which gives you more capacity to make a difference in the world.
3. Don’t quit
There’s a good chance when you experience failure that you’ll think about quitting. It’s a normal reaction to disappointment and hardship. This is exasperated when failure is personalized and taken to heart. To overcome this temptation you must remind yourself, literally and out loud, that deep down you are still you, that this failure is not a reflection of who you are.
Sure, the thing you tried didn’t work. You didn’t pass the test or get the job, but if you compare your situation with every other extremely successful person out there, you’d find that you’re in good company. Stay focused, try again, and you will succeed.
4. You can’t change the past so move on
Failure can have an emotional impact on us, especially if we personalize the failure. We can get stuck thinking “if only I had…” when in reality the moment has past and there’s nothing you can do to change it. The best thing you can do after a failure is to assess the situation, learn from it, make course corrections, and get right back to it as soon as possible.
Your ability to reframe a difficult life event is directly related to your ability to move on in a healthy way. Don’t play the role of a victim when a failure occurs. Refuse to let self-degrading thoughts take hold, and don’t allow anger to control you. Communicate with those closest to you and stay accountable to at least one person that will encourage you and help you stay the course.
Having the right perspective on failure is important to financial success. When you understand that failure is but another step on the ladder of success, it will free you up to do more, to have courage, and stay focused on your financial goals.
If you’re currently experiencing a financial challenge, don’t let it define who you are. Keep trying, keep going, and keep doing your best. In time, your situation will get better and you’ll be on solid ground again. If you need help and could benefit from a financial coach, I’d be happy to help. You can reach me through the contact form on this site. I’d be honored to help you on your journey.