handling failure

The Best Way to Handle Failure


Sober Recovery Expert Author

handling failure

Sports icon Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that’s why I succeed.” While he’s definitely not the first to share the importance of getting back up despite failure, many of us have already realized that this is much easier said than done.

Think of what takes place after you’ve fallen short of a goal. It’s almost too hard to resist just giving up, blaming someone else or going into hiding. Yet in your heart you know that these are counterproductive to your recovery—use this gut feeling to your advantage.

No matter how big or small of a mess up, here are 4 things you can do to help turn your thought process around and keep yourself moving forward.

No matter how big or small of a mess up, here are 4 things you can do to help turn your thought process around and keep yourself moving forward.

1. Know how to handle negative self-talk.

Everyone has a little voice in their head that is critical of their behavior. It acts like an internal critic that thrives on negativity. As tiny as it is, it has a lot of power and seems to be judging our actions all the time. When you don’t quiet that voice down, you engage in negative self-talk, which results in anger, despair and disappointment.

Whether or not you’re in recovery, it is paramount that you identify strategies to quiet these disapproving thoughts so it doesn’t detract you from achieving your goals. Try doing following:

  • Every time you catch yourself saying something destructive, stop for a moment and recognize the thought. You must be conscious that you are sabotaging yourself before you can make changes.
  • When pessimistic dialogue begins in your mind, think to yourself, “Would I say these harmful words to my best friend? “ or “If someone I know messed up and relapsed, would I tell them just to quit?” If the answer is no, then stop being rude to yourself.
  • Distract yourself from focusing on these undesirable thoughts and you will be surprised how quickly you move toward a positive frame of mind.
  • Help someone in need. It can be as simple as helping your child with homework or calling a friend who’s going through a bad time. In the end, the goal here is to change your perspective and realize that that voice cannot define who you are.

2. Write about it.

Start a journal. Every therapist, friend and family member has suggested for you to write down your feelings and they’ve given you sound advice. Write down even your most discouraging thoughts and it will help you keep pushing forward. Often, penning our self-evaluations eliminates them from our minds. It allows us to let go of our own judgmental opinions of ourselves. Read more on how writing can help you in recovery.

3. Identify the lesson that comes with each decision.

If you’re in recovery long enough, you’ve probably wondered if you can have just one drink. Through your bout of relapse, you probably wound up binge drinking and beating yourself up over it later. While this looks like a massive failure from every angle, the truth is something meaningful just happened: you learned you can’t have “just one” anymore and that it may be best if you abstained.

As you have realized by now, the world is not just black or white. What may seem like failure at the moment could actually be a step towards progress. Because of whatever may have happened, you learned what not to do for next time or it may have better prepared you for the future. Perhaps the very fact that you failed with this one particular goal is the very thing that will propel you to lasting success.

4. Educate yourself on how you can be better.

As humans, we’re constantly educating ourselves by our actions and relationships. Actor and game show host Drew Carey said that when he suffered from serious depression earlier in life, the way he got over feeling hopeless was by reading. “Self-help books, man. I just read every single one I can get a hold of and I still do. I read that stuff all the time still. I am always coming out bigger, better, stronger and happier.” Similarly, in terms of recovery, there’s no better way to get ourselves off any slump by developing ourselves through a combination of group meetings, reading, research, patience and time.

There’s nothing worse like feeling like you’ve failed, but freeing yourself of negative self-talk is the best way to get yourself back up and try once more. Just like with addiction, entertaining these negative thoughts is a tough habit to break, but be gentle with yourself and just don’t stop trying.

If you or someone you know is seeking help for behavioral, alcohol or drug addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 866-606-0182 to start the path to recovery today.

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