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Winning at Life God's Way

6 Ways to Thrive (Not Just Survive) after You Fail

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Last week I described my friend’s pain after she suffered a setback and thought of herself as a failure. Her suffering caused me to think how badly we need to know and remember the truth about failing. I discussed five related truths in last week’s post, which you can read here.

Today’s post builds on that discussion and offers tips for how to cope with failures and turn them into opportunities. As you read through these tips, think about which ones might help you:

Tips for Responding To Failure

1.   Know the facts about failure.

A rational attitude toward failure protects us from unnecessary pain caused by distorted thinking on the subject. Next time you feel rocked by a setback, remember these five truths:

  • Everyone fails
  • Failure involves what we do – not who we are
  • Failures teach us
  • Failures build character
  • Pushing through failure builds resilience

“the truth will set you free.(John 8:32)

2.  Manage Self Talk:

The way we talk to ourselves matters. Words have consequences. Negative self-talk makes us feel defeated. Positive, truth-based self-talk helps us feel more hopeful, more courageous. When you talk to yourself, do these two things:

  • Reject Labels:

The next time you experience a setback, don’t call yourself a failure. Simply think, “I failed at doing ________.” You are not what you did!

If you make a mistake, don’t say, “I’m so stupid.” Think, “I’m so human!” Centuries ago, Alexander Pope wrote, “to err is human.” It’s conventional wisdom!

  • Think in specific (not global) terms.

We are complex creatures living multi-dimensional lives. We simultaneously work jobs, pursue personal development, engage with friends, family, church and community, indulge in hobbies, volunteer and pursue goals.

Do not allow failure in one area to color your view of your whole life. Reflect on all the remaining good parts of your life when things go awry in one area.

               “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.   (Romans 12:2)

3.   Learn, Learn, Learn!

Failure brings the opportunity to learn. Mistakes offer lessons – look for them. Enjoy getting smarter.

Failure teaches us what not to do. It pressures us to stretch ourselves, to try new things, acquire new knowledge and develop new skills. That’s all good!

It also teaches us the humility, compassion and grace we need to bless others.

                                    “…be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim:3:17)

4.   Share Blame.

When relationships and joint efforts fail, it’s tempting to place all the blame on the other person or accept all the blame ourselves. Don’t do that.

Relationships and joint efforts fail when the “dance” (interaction style) two people did together didn’t work out. Two people participated in the dance; two people own the failure.

Do not judge others or yourself when relationships and shared efforts fail. Instead, search out the mistakes that led to failure and vow not to repeat them.

Judge not, and you will not be judged. (Luke 6:37)

5.   Act Better Than You Feel.

Failure can leave us feeling despondent and unsure of ourselves. That’s okay. We do not choose and cannot help our feelings. However, we don’t have to act on those feelings.

You know the old adage, “If you fall off your horse, get back on right away.” We need to get right back in the game after failure — no matter how we feel.

“…be strong and courageous, and do the work.” (1 Chronicles 22:33)

6.   Move Forward.

The world’s most successful people typically suffered a long series of setbacks before realizing their dreams. You can read some of their stories here. For example, did you know Lucille Ball was told in early auditions to “pack it in” and go home due to her lack of talent?

You can read more about how this works in John Maxwell’s book, Failing Forward or in The Operator by Rob O’Neil (who shot Osama Bin Laden). O’Neil explained in a recent radio interview that Navy Seals succeed by “never quitting, never quitting.”

Success generally happens after we learn from failures. So next time you fail at something, be gentle with yourself. Go back to the drawing board and plan what to do next.

“the Lord will fulfill His purpose for me…(Psalm 138:8)


Our competitive culture often regards failure as a bad thing. It’s not bad; it’s human. Failures bring opportunity. Hang in there when you fail. Think rationally, learn, persist and move on.

Could any of these tips help you cope better to failure? Which ones? I’d love to know!



About Cheryl Savageau

Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor

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