Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash
“Everything I try to do fails.”
I told my wife this a couple of years ago. It wasn’t true of course, but I believed it. I went on to list all the things that have failed when I was involved or attempted to do them.
We had just started talking about our dreams and the future. We were talking about some details like our finances and short term goals and I was feeling pretty hopeless. As we dug a little deeper into the state above, we realized something.
I was allowing failure to define my identity.
Somewhere along the way, I had failed. As a result of that failure, I believed that “I” was a failure. I took on an identity of failure. Throughout my personal history, I allowed that identity to rule over my life.
I would go from one thing to the next, feeling like a failure.
Sometimes it was true. I would fail at something and move onto the next thing. Other times, I didn’t fail at all. Sure, I didn’t meet my personal expectations maybe, but I had succeeded at what I initially went out to do.
While we have talked about mindset in the past (link), this is different. This dream killer is something that latches onto you. It slowly sucks the life out of your dreams, even when things are going well.
Before we figure out how to overcome our past failures, we need to understand something about our past failures.
The Role of Failure in Our Past
“Failure is a detour; not a dead-end street.” — Zig Ziglar
Thinking back on my life, I have feared failure a great deal. Which makes sense if I had given myself and identity of failure. This identity grew in me an unhealthy fear of impending doom no matter what I was doing.
I had misplaced the role of failure in my life.
Many of us do this too. We fail at something once, twice, maybe three times. When we keep failing over and over again, we just resign ourselves to this being true at anything we do. Or, we assign our failure in a particular endeavor at not being good enough for it.
However, the true role of failure is threefold. It teaches us something we need to know for the future. It shows us what doesn’t work on the road to success. And it creates opportunities for us to find our way in life.
Sometimes, we are doing the wrong thing. We are chasing the wrong dream. Or, we are living a priority that is not our own. Failures teach us when we are moving in the wrong direction. It informs us that we need to make a change, not give up.
Failure Helps Us Find What Works
When we fail in the past, instead of giving up and believing we are a failure, we can learn from it in another way. We can see what doesn’t work and start looking for what does work. We find the ways that don’t work in order to get to the one that does.
Failure and Opportunity
While it sucks to fail at something, there are always opportunities to be found. Maybe one business fails, but you have a new idea from the failed business. Sometimes our failures show us opportunities we would have missed if we succeeded.
Failure’s Role Understood
Now, that we know the role failure can play in our lives, especially when it comes to chasing our dreams, we can move on to how to overcome failure when we let it become our identity.
How to Overcome an Identity of Failure
We understand that failure does play a role in our lives. Yet, when we let it define our identity, we need to find ways to overcome this and step back into who we are and who we are meant to be in order to see our dreams come true.
№1 — Understand You are Not a Failure
YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE. But you have failed a few times. That’s okay. Remember, failure helps us. And we can embrace that part of life. But it isn’t who we are. We are on a journey toward something. A journey of success, prosperity, or simply peace.
№2 — The Starting Point
Once you realize your identity isn’t one of failure, you need to start accumulating little wins. These are the things that help take you toward big victories in life. Whatever your dreams or goals are, you need to start getting momentum with little victories. This is your starting point.
№3 — Change The Story
As you begin to step into an identity of success and experience little wins in life, you will start to see your story change. This change is one part experience, one part of your decision. Each win helps you remind yourself this one thing: “I am a success. I will see my dreams come true.”
№4 — Learn A Lesson
You will fail along the way. When you do, learn a lesson. While you might be gaining a lot of momentum, at some point you will mix some failures into the journey. When it happens, figure out what the lessons are and apply those lessons to your journey.
№5 — Overcome
There will be a point when you succeed. You will accomplish a dream or goal you didn’t think possible. And you will overcome your past failures. It is a journey, it will be marked with wins and losses. But once you attain your goal or dream, you have overcome those failures.
You can’t do this alone. Most of the time, when we work to overcome the dream killers, we can do much of the work by ourselves. However, your past failures want you to be alone. It is easier to derail you from the progress.
You need to bring someone alongside your journey to remind you of your little victories and the change in your story. This helps solidify your identity. And, they will help you learn lessons from new failures that come up.
Ultimately, overcoming your past failures is a team effort.
Nevertheless, this is how you overcome your past failures and begin to see your dreams come true. It takes a little time, it takes a lot of work, but it is totally worth it. This is the last of the dream killers, and you can overcome it too.
What is a past failure that is holding you back from your dreams? How might you learn from it and change the story on it?