Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I Think Like a Failure!

by Pat Hardesty

“I think like a failure” may be more accurate than “I feel like a failure!” We so often mix feelings and thoughts in our conversation. I talked about Failure equaling being a Loser in our culture! It is in our thoughts, too! But actually when we are “feeling like a failure” we are thinking like a failure! What is the difference?

Our thoughts prescribe our feelings, like a doctor prescribes a medicine for our complaints. For example, a thought of failure might be “Everything I’ve tried has ended up not working!” If that is a thought that I carry with me and repeat often in my thoughts, I begin to feel discouraged.

I’ve done some sorting of thoughts and feelings associated with Failure. Here are a few.



The same thing keeps happening;

I can’t expect good results!


I have no creative energy left.


I must use what’s left of my energy to survive!


Because this didn’t work the way I thought I must be …! Or I’m not smart enough to be successful


What do people think of me? What do I think of myself?


Where is God? Why isn’t He helping me?

Deserted, Abandoned

Everything I’ve tried has ended in failure.


This is not a complete list, but you can see how there are thoughts and feelings that connect in our minds without our realizing it. The importance of knowing the difference is that we can begin to change our thoughts or self talk. If we can change our thoughts we can then begin to change our feelings and then our results.

My Definition of Failure

Rather than “feeling like a Loser” my definition of failure is Unmet Expectations. If I begin to “feel like a failure” I have learned to stop and sort out what my expectations were. Usually, I find that I have a sense of unfairness…my expectations have not been met! An old habit of mine pushes me to quickly find someone or something outside myself to blame for these unmet expectations. But I have learned that ultimately, I am the author of my expectations, therefore I am accountable for them being unmet.

Sometimes, I realize that my expectations were unrealistic. I set a really high bar. That’s okay to do that, but when we do we need to realize that we are creating the situation that could give us “failure” as a result. Remember that Thomas Edison had 10,000 failures before he successfully invented the incandescent light bulb!

Sometimes, my expectations are unmet because other parties needed to be involved in order for me to have success. And I didn’t communicate well enough from my end what I needed from them, what I expected, or even what I wanted as an outcome. Many times we have willing partners, but we don’t communicate well enough for all partners to have the same picture of what success will be.

Success is Different for Each Person

Most times, success is different for each partner, and the communication is needed to allow for each partner to experience their own kind of success in a project. For example, I want a wall of stone built around my garden. I communicate the picture to my partners. I communicate during the selection of stone, and the building process. If I do this successfully, the wall looks like I intended and the partners experienced success in working with their hands and creating something that pleases all parties!

Sometimes my expectations are unmet because I am meddling in someone else’s life. The success I am looking for is none of my business. I have decided to take control of another. And that will only work until the other decides to take their life back and move forward. This happens a lot with parents and children! I need to identify clearly if the success I’m wanting is strictly for me, or if I am wishing to control others. This can really help to clarify boundaries and reduce my list of failures in a flash!

Entitlement Thinking

Perhaps the greatest cause of failure is the kind of thinking in which we tell ourselves we deserve what we want. It is fairy tale thinking. “If I want this I should have it!” We do live in a land of opportunity. I still believe that. But does that mean that I can have a certain kind of life just by wanting it? Entitlement thinking is dangerous because it does not allow for natural consequences. Entitlement thinking is like having a house of cards and believing that it will stand up under all circumstances. Common sense tells you that a house of cards will fall at some point. The response, however, when the deluge comes, is that it’s not fair that the house is gone!

The story of The Three Little Pigs taught us of natural consequences when we were three years old. Have we forgotten? The Three Little Pigs is not an idle children’s story. It teaches us about natural consequences. And it teaches that each person has direct responsibility for much of what we encounter.

Does God have a part in this? Each person has their own opinions. I believe that God does not cause consequences, nor does God rescue us from them. There is a natural order, laws of the universe that decide consequences. These are not easily trifled with. They provide the skeleton within which we can live and proper.

In the end of this discussion, I conclude that we have choice. It is important that we see we do! Failure is a way of thinking. It can send us on an emotional roller coaster. OR it can spur us on to fine tune our expectations and our participation in life. Failure is a choice and so is Success!


  1. Well put and I heartily agree.

  2. This is one subject I've always struggled with. I do believe failure is a choice. But I also think failure is a consequence of circumstances too. I'm thinking of these economic times of unemployment. When I've been unemployed, it is the reality of waking up in the morning and facing life with either the past problems, or facing the day with the excitment and challenge of finding a job. Or I think of my spouse - when he "feels" like a failure, I take on that feeling too and then have to step back and decide to go through the process of living independent of his choices of the day. And I think of my children - when they "feel" like failures, I struggle to step back and pray for their lives. I heard some "church women" state the other day that we shouldn't ask God for favors. And I totally disagreed with that concept. It may be a little different than your "entitlement" definition above - but the God part in me says that HE wants us to ask for favor. I believe He "FAVORS" us. So in my life, successes and failures moments, I usually think, pray for, look for, and accept FAVORS from above.
    Pam Fitz