What to do when things don’t go to plan

9 March, 2021

Sometimes we could use a setback to realise that nothing in this world is guaranteed and should therefore not be taken for granted. But some events feel so much more than a setback. How do you cope with failure?

I hope this blog post will provide some pointers to help you find your way when the situation feels hopeless, or you feel there’s no way forward. You may put yourself down, and endlessly dwell on where it all went wrong but ultimately what is more important is what are you going to do about it?

Regardless of the circumstances, some things are out of your control, and whilst unfair, dwelling on the subject will not make matters any better. So, what can we do?

What has this ‘failure’ made you realise? Perhaps, you may feel that you have grown too comfortable in your successes, or you truly believe you tried your hardest, and just do not understand how this can be happening.

Firstly, remember to breathe, and recognise for what they are, any irrational beliefs you are experiencing about failure, or an undesired result. Whilst, yes, this may be a setback, that’s all it is, a setback. Which means there is a path by which you can move forward again. The world isn’t ending, and it’s okay to think this at the beginning, but try and take a step back and acknowledge that this is, in fact, not the case.

Secondly, we must take responsibility for the situation, whether this is a failed test, or an undesired outcome. You may feel the circumstances were not fair, or not your fault, but ultimately, what does this achieve, other than negatively impacting yourself?   It’s natural to feel anger, sadness and sometimes shame, but by making excuses for your set back, this will stop you engaging in the most important part of the process, learning.

Lastly, take inspiration from your failure. Use it to push you forward, to drive you further to get back on track, or perhaps change course. Some of the most successful people on this planet, have also had some of the greatest failures too. And something that all of these people had in common, is that they didn’t let their failures stop them from becoming who they wanted to be, and more importantly, many of them gained a new perspective on their visions and aspirations.

The feeling of failure can be crushing, and even debilitating. But take a minute, and imagine the world if Thomas Edison gave up before inventing the lightbulb (he worked on at least 3000 different theories before coming up with the solution that worked).  

Whilst you are probably replaying the experience over and over, and you’re feeling utter devastation, think back to an experience when you were successful. How did it feel and how can you apply the confidence you experienced then to the current situation.

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy but as Walt Disney (who saw his fair share of failures) famously said: “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you”.