Strategies: Handling Failure
I’m such a failure. It’s true, and I’m totally fine admitting it. It doesn’t sound pretty and Oprah has told us too many times to never utter those words. But I’m a rebel, so… I’m a failure. Okay, so maybe it would be more accurate to say, “At times I fail.” I’m definitely okay with that. At least I am most of the time. I’ve had to retrain my brain though. I’m a perfectionist and my tendency is to wipe the mistakes out of my mind and focus on my successes. I’ve beaten myself up many days for mistakes, but there’s no reason to feel dismal. In the Bible there are the great examples of God’s chosen leaders that had failures. (At least mine haven’t been recorded for the world to read!) We hear far more about David’s greatness, than we do his Bathsheba moment. Forgiveness was found for Peter’s denial, and he became a catalyst of the early church. If these kingdom leaders found forgiveness and moved onward, surely I can do the same.
I recently watched a video with Sarah Blakely, the CEO of Spanx (God lover her,) where she tells about her father celebrating her failures as a child. He would be disappointed if a week went by that she had not experienced some type of failure. Her advice is to redefine failure. You have to remove the thought of not succeeding from the definition. Instead, replace it with the act of not trying. By consistently discussing failure, and even receiving high fives for it, she conditioned herself to not be afraid of trying new things. She learned what things she was good at, and what things she could learn from. As a mother I instantly thought, “Wow, I need to start doing this with my daughter.” And then, not wanting to be the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ type of mom, I had to turn and look at myself. As a minister, how can I celebrate my failures? How can I intentionally celebrate failure? I thought of a couple of [simple] things, and I hope to broaden it in the future.
I need to talk about it.
When we bring our staff and leadership together to refine our processes, I want to include discussion about where I have fallen short. Not to bring shame, or to passive aggressively ask for help, but to let them see that as a leader I can mess up and still succeed. Hopefully, more than just me will learn from it and I’m fairly certain there will be laughs along the way.
I need to learn from it.
For me, a fast response to failure when it pops into my mind is to close my eyes and put my fingers in my ears and say, “La, la, la.” In a healthy way, I need to examine what I’ve done, and how I can allow the Lord to help me use better judgment in the future. If I learn from it, I won’t have to put my fingers in my ears and I’ll more likely have better success in the future.
It’s a simple start that will hopefully bring me to places of less fear. I’m ready for more movement, for more challenges. And at the end of the day (or some days,) I want to say, “I’ve failed. What’s next?” I’m believing God can teach me from there.
“Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.” Psalms 119:66