“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.” – W.E. Hickson
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a… fool about it.” – W.C. Fields
The first quote, although from a British man, is very American. We have the idea that you can achieve anything you put your mind to. This is more true than not, but if you are trying to achieve something, how will you know when it is actually time to move on to something else instead of giving it another go?
Before you do, stop and do a reality check of your situation. Just why is it that success has evaded you so far?
You could make a critical mistake at this point. Motivation theorists Miller & Rollnick note that motivation is sometimes lost because of mistaken “attributions of failure”, meaning that some people give up because they think they’ve “failed”, and that their “failure” is due to their personal shortcomings. There are two problems with this. The first is that not succeeding isn’t the same as failing, and the second is with the explanation for that “failure”.
Using quotation marks on the word “failure” is deliberate. An attempt that didn’t work out is best viewed as a chance to learn how you can do better. In essence, that means reframing the “failure” as a “try”, an attempt that did not lead to the desired success, and then taking a look back to figure out what happened.
But you won’t get the right answer without following one basic principle, and that is that you must be fair with yourself. Being fair means taking your full share of responsibility – but only your fair share, not a bit more. Don’t fall into the trap of either taking too much blame or blaming something else when you shouldn’t.
To be fair to yourself, do a balanced evaluation of the following ideas:
- Were my abilities suitable for this goal?
- Was I given the right training?
- Did I have the right experience?
- Were all the necessary resources available?
- Was the timing right? Did this goal fit into my current schedule of commitments?
- Was the (work, church, community, etc.) group ready? (This applies even if the group set the agenda.)
- Did this goal really engage my interests?
- How did others support or hinder what I was doing?
This is not to engage in excuse-making. That will only give a view of yourself that is unrealistic. Instead, strive to make something good out of your experiences, even the “bad” ones, because almost always, some valuable lesson can be learned. This is how you transform what could have been a setback into a setup for the next success in your future..