Recovering from Failure

I am a big believer in defining terms. Frequently, misunderstandings are due to using different definitions for the same words. Likewise, we can find ourselves stuck in patterns (thoughts and behaviors) simply because we have a rigid view or definition of our circumstances.


So, first things first. How do you define failure? The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th edition has eight definitions for the word failure that can be summed up in the first three:

1. The condition or fact of not achieving the desired end or ends.

2. One that fails.

3. The condition or fact of being insufficient or falling short.


Notice that two of the three quickly become one’s identity rather than an event. In other words, being one that fails and being insufficient can become your identity if you are not careful.


There is a difference between having failed and being a failure.


An essential first step in recovering from failure – whether it be a job loss, business closure, bankruptcy, divorce (or the end of another meaningful relationship), or not meeting your performance expectations in an activity about which you are passionate – is defining the failure as an event, i.e., “the condition or fact of not achieving the desired end or ends.”



I took a very unscientific poll of 50 of my friends, asking, “In one sentence, how do you overcome failure?” Their responses can be summed up in two