Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways. Proverbs 20:30 (GNT)
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No one’s life is an unbroken chain of victories. We all experience setbacks, defeats, losses, and failures. Nobody bats a thousand. We all make mistakes.
Since failure is common to all of us, one of the most important life-skills you can learn is how to respond to it. Mature people know how to turn every failure into a learning experience, a stepping stone for future success.
The first thing to do is to analyze why you experienced failure. Although there may be a variety of reasons – many out of your control – here are five common causes of failure:
· When we don’t plan ahead – As the old saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.” Proverbs 27:12 (LB) says, “A sensible man watches for problems ahead and prepares to meet them.” Remember, Noah had to start building the ark long before it started raining!
· When we think we’ve “arrived” – Remember the lesson of the whale: just when you get to the top, and you start to blow– that’s when you get harpooned! Proverbs 16:18 (GNT) says, “Pride leads to destruction, and arrogance leads to downfall.” In other words, the man who gets too big for his britches will be exposed in the end.
· When we’re afraid to take necessary risks – The fear of failure can cause failure. We worry about what others will think of us if we fail, so we don’t even try. Former U.S. football player Fran Tarkenton says, “Fear sets you up to be a loser.” We fail to take advantage of golden opportunities. “Fear of man is a dangerous trap” (Proverbs 29:25 LB).
· When we give up too soon – Many times, success is just around the corner. Remember, the game is often won in the final seconds. If at first you don’t succeed … you’re normal! Keep on keeping on! The value of a postage stamp is found in its ability to stick to one thing until it gets there. “A lazy fellow has trouble all through life” (Proverbs 15:19 LB).
· When we ignore God’s advice – The Bible is our owner’s manual for life. It is filled with practical instructions and guidelines for work, home, finances, relationships, and health. When we fail to follow these, we’re asking for trouble. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12 NIV).
But remember failure is never final unless you let it be!
If you’ve experienced failure, here are some steps for starting over:
· Accept responsibility for your own failure – If you’ve made a mistake, admit it! Welcome to the human race. Don’t blame others. “A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance” (Proverbs 28:13 LB).
· Recognize the benefits of failure – For instance, it shows you what doesn’t work. The great inventor Thomas Edison said, “Don’t call it a failure. Call it an education!” Failure forces you to be more creative.
· Failure prevents arrogance and egotism – If everything you did was a stunning success, no one could live with you! It causes you to re-evaluate what’s important in life. Failure is one way God gets us to reflect on the direction of our lives. “Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways” (Proverbs 20:30 GNT).
· Ask God for wisdom to understand the cause for the failure – Ask, “Why did I fail? Is there any reason I might have set myself up to fail?”
· Forget the past and focus on the future – Your past is past! It’s water under the bridge. You can’t change it so you may as well stop worrying about it.
Brothers and sisters, I can’t consider myself a winner yet. This is what I do: I don’t look back, I lengthen my stride, and I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God’s heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14 (GWT)