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Embrace The Setback (How To Handle Failure)

I may be preaching to a choir of one today (myself), but if that’s the case; so be it.

This past week I encountered a series of setbacks. Nothing profound or catastrophic, just some projects I have been working on and for the life of me I can’t seem to get them right or completed. I’ve questioned my competence and even my will to continue. I considered (briefly) giving up, but being the stubborn and hardheaded type, I decided to press on. As of this writing I still have not successfully accomplished my goals, but I did want to pass along some insights I’ve uncovered in the process.

First of all, I have decided that it is ok to embrace the discouragement. In a weird twist of blog confirmation, as I was watching my DVR’d latest episode of This Is Us; teenage Kevin so eloquently declared, “Sometimes you just want to feel bummed.” We are consistently bombarded with messages of positivity and told to resist and rebuke the negative. I am offering the suggestion that maybe, for a reason and a season, we should set our parking brake on that exact spot of disappointment. Soaking up those feelings often provides the fuel for our next steps. We can’t fully appreciate the win without a few losses. What immediately follows the crushing weight of defeat is the sudden appearance of a crossroads. The easy path, of course, would be to take the short exit to surrender. (Which, I’ve already decided against, and so should you.) The longer, less traveled, route is one of perseverance. We must double down on our efforts, research other options, or even ask for help. The sting and irritation should be the catalyst to continue to try again, because the victory after a hard-fought battle is certainly sweeter than a trophy handed out for just showing up.

Of course, I would prefer that everything I attempted worked out beautifully the first time. Who wouldn’t? Reality, however, has taught me this is seldom the case. But it is also in these moments where growth begins, and growing pains often accompany this process. If you are experiencing difficulty in a certain area or task in your life; that most likely means you are trying something new. That’s wonderful! We should all be willing to expand our boundaries and take on challenges. If it is a new hobby, don’t expect to be a pro right off the bat. If you are committed to a healthier lifestyle and making better choices, don’t beat yourself up if you slip every now and then. Whatever you are working on, keep plugging away even when it’s messy, takes longer than you thought, or no one is around to cheer you on. Be your own cheerleader and believe in the personal satisfaction that will come with the effort.

I have one other interesting tidbit of knowledge about the word ‘setback’. It is also an architectural

term. It is defined as a recess in the upper part of a structure to allow light and air to reach the bottom of the building. It is a process that also lowers the building’s total center of mass, redistributing the load of gravity so it becomes more stabilized. (A very well-known example is The Empire State Building.)

Do get what I’m saying here? A setback that we encounter in our life can have the same effect on us. Disappointments and challenges serve to keep us in balance by redistributing our efforts. They force us to test our limits and strive to complete a task. Accomplishments and goal winning provide a stable foundation for our self-worth and belief in ourselves. If we never overcome an obstacle, we will never believe we can. It also works in the pay it forward department, because once you realize you can, it puts you in the position of encouraging others that they can as well. Which is hopefully where I come in.

My Hopefuls, I do not know what difficulties each of you are facing, but I am confident that most are experiencing some sort of challenge. I know all too well the frustration that can materialize when, despite all your best efforts, things still do not work out the way you want them to. I wish I had an easy answer or magic wand, but I have neither. What I do have is a decent understanding of the human will. If we believe what we are working on, or fighting for, is worth it, we will keep on keeping on. Whether it is an educational goal, career move, personal accomplishment, or even a relationship issue, we must press forward. Use the disappointments as leverage. Claim the setback as motivation. Determine to beat failure at its own game. I am confident in your abilities to succeed. And one other thing, this process or challenge is a marathon, not a sprint. Do not fall into thinking there will always be a quick resolution. Sometimes it happens, but often there is patience and time required. Put in work required and wait.

As I leave you now to restart my own efforts, I trust you are renewed in your determination to try again as well. I would love to hear back on your successes and I will certainly be there for you in the failures. At the end of day, we are all in this together and we need each other. Do not let the disappointments in life rob you of joy. We all experience them and we can all overcome them. Release that parking brake now and plow ahead. And while you are at it……


Hope With Abandon

Hope Out!

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