Dealing with the failures of life


Failure is the most difficult and painful emotion to deal with. It stems from the fact that everyone has expectations. When these expectations are not met, they leave a gaping hole in our lives, and cause us to sometimes give up. It does not matter whether these expectations are high or low, their non-fulfilment always leaves us empty and exasperated. The Bible even tells us that “hope deferred maketh the heart sick”. The year is just about three weeks old and already some people have given up hope of ever achieving their resolutions for the year.

There are several reasons why our expectations are not (or cannot be) met. They range from the purely physical to spiritual reasons (that is, if you believe in the role of the divine hand in our lives). You set your eyes on a particular guy. You have prayed and fasted and read the Bible and listened to prophecy. But he has chosen another lady. Conversely, you proposed to the lady of your dreams and she turned you down. These are serious matters of the heart whose non-fulfilment can leave us so emotionally drained that life will lose its essence for us. Besides relationships, you could have lost a dearly beloved person (like I lost my Auntie rather painfully last week). Results of last semester’s exams have been released and you realised that you “bombed” some courses seriously. Or you failed to make the First Class that you set yourself. Well, all these are signs of failure to achieve one goal or the other. Why do we fail? Let us briefly scan through a couple of these reasons:

  1. Our expectations (goal, hopes, etc) are not met when we fail to set them right. In other words, the biggest threat to our achievement of goals is the goal setting process itself. In setting your expectations or goals, there are certain principles that you must follow. Failure to follow such principles can lead to a high likelihood that the outcome may not always be what we expect. We learn from management theory that a goal must be SMART (that is, specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound). For instance, if your expectation was not specific, you could end up being disappointed. Similarly, if you set an unrealistic goal for yourself, your “heart will be sick” from a failure to accomplish that goal.
  2. Another reason for failure has to do with our inability to do an environmental scan before setting goals. It is imperative to understand that the possibility of some goals being achieved does not lie within our reach. We do not control the processes that can make the achievement of such goals possible. I have been amazed at the rate at which people place all their aspirations in processes that they have no control over. We can only do so much to aid the achievement of our dream but beyond that, there is very little we can do. Do not hang your life on the response of the lady you proposed to. Your task ends with proposal. The actual response lies in the bosom of the lady. Do not hang your happiness in life on the job you want to get. You can only write your application and CV very well. But beyond that, someone else has to make a decision. So before you set your expectations or goals, scan the environment and ask yourself: “which of the processes do I have control over?” and, “for those processes I may not have control over, how far can I go to ensure that this goal is achieved”?
  3. Furthermore, goals are not achieved when we fail to match resources with goals. Resources do not only refer to finances, even though they form a key part of it. Resources could be by way of time, energy/passion and social capital. Before setting your goal, or building your expectations, ensure that you have enough resources to enable you achieve your goal. In my personal life, I have made several resolutions about enrolling with Alliance Francaise to study French. At one point I went to the extent of picking up registration forms to enable me start. But it has been five years now and I am yet to start my French classes. My failure to achieve this goal was only due to my inability to commit time and energy to it. For this goal to be realisable, I needed to sacrifice some time to it, which I failed to do!
  4. Doing the same things over and over again will lead to failure. That is a surety. Review your strategies for accomplishing goals over the years and identify what makes you fail and what makes you succeed. Do not keep repeating the same strategies that made you fail in the past. Consider changing strategies and trying new ways of doing things. If following a particular path has always led to failure, try changing course and see the results. If studying late in the night has always led to fatigue and failure, try studying during the day for once, and see the results. Sometimes it will make a huge difference if we can even change the way we dress. Just change your hairstyle a little bit. Or even change the colours you wear.

Failure is not a palatable affair at all. Some people have gone to the extent of even committing suicide over their failures in life. Some people receive exam results and collapse. Some ladies are jilted by their supposed lovers and they commit suicide. Some guys become reclusive because the ladies of their dreams abandon them. Failure to get a job can also lead to very unpleasant social consequences for us as a country. Though failure is not palatable, the good news is that we can always do something about it.

  1. The first thing to do about failure is to develop a passion for success. Mundane as this suggestion sounds; it is the most fundamental solution to the problem of failure. You must be passionate enough to succeed that failure cannot have space in your life. No matter the remedy prescribed, at the end of the day, you must be preoccupied with success. In Mark 11:24, Jesus told the disciples “whatsoever thing you DESIRE, when you pray, believe that you have it and it shall be yours”. There must be a desire to succeed before you even go on your knees to pray to God. When life’s challenges give you a real beating, the only thing that can get you going is your passion.
  2. Accept that what you call failure is not the end of the world. If you stumble on the road, it does not mean the journey must end. If you are driving and you get a burst tyre, you remove it, fix another one and move on. See the failures that you are experiencing in your life as warning signals for you to avoid certain things in life. A more progressive approach in life is to see failure as a means to an end. Norman Vincent Peale, the celebrated motivational speaker notes “success is never ending and failure is never final”. Failure indeed can never be final because you can always bounce back. When you fall, dust yourself and move on. No one has been tagged a loser in life, without their consent! If your boyfriend leaves you, grieve over your loss for some time, get over it and then move on with your life. If your dream girl turns you down, cry if you want and then move on with life. If you have failed your exams, console yourself and then re-register to write this year. All is not lost yet. The year is too young for you to give up. Eventually life is more important than failure.
  3. Explore new ways of addressing your problems. If your old way of doing things have contributed to your past failures, change course and try something new. God in his infinite wisdom gave us the ability to adapt to new way of doing things. Do not get stuck with just one way of doing things, particularly if that way has led you to the bosom of failure. Do not be afraid to change jobs if the opportunity presents itself. You should be bold to get out of an abusive relationship and try something new! Don’t hang on to old ways of doing things and die! If ladies keep turning you down, try changing your look. Put on a lot more confidence, change your style of dressing, have a new haircut and be bold!! Shed off that potbelly and be a regular at the gym. If you are always failing your exams, change your style of learning. If learning with friends is distractive, try and be by yourself most of the times. If you are being turned down by most potential employers, pluck up the courage and ask one of them what is wrong with you. Change your style of writing CVs and cover letters. There are a number of them on the internet that you can try.
  4. Set new goals for yourself. Goals are not cast in stone. When at a point in time your goals seem unachievable, do an amendment. Do not be blinded by a religious attachment to goals. When they need to be changed, feel free to change them. Be cautious however, in dealing with amendments to goals. This is because goals reflect our aspirations in life. Be prepared to accept a lesser paying job rather than to be chasing after jobs that pay fat salaries and allowances. You can use the lesser paying jobs to launch yourself into the companies that pay fat salaries. Think of renting an apartment in readiness for the day you will have enough to build your own house. Check the criteria you are using to select a partner. Some of these criteria tend to be highly unrealistic. The most important thing is to get somebody you are compatible with, and who loves you. The rest can always be dealt with within the relationship. A lot of ladies particularly, have such high standards for their ideal husbands that they end up turning down all the potentially good guys that come their way. It does not take too long for them to be disappointed because eventually they realise that all those criteria they used belonged in movies, and did not exist in real life. Be receptive to change and you can defeat failure!


Failure can be painful. But a more positive approach is to see it as a stepping stone to greatness. A failed venture simply means that change course. Try new approaches and revise your goals.

Source: Richard Ellimah Esq


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