How to bounce back from failure

‘How’s your training going?’ my friend asked as we tucked into pie and peas on an evening out a few weeks ago. He expected me to say that I’m still on week one, but I couldn’t even say that.

‘Week zero,’ I said. ‘I’ve gone backwards.’ And I carried on eating the rest of my pie, feeling, it has to be said, like a bit of a failure.

For a year and a half, I’ve struggled to find the time to train. A full-time job, 300-mile a week commute and master’s study has meant that I couldn’t commit to the intense training that I used to. I’ve run whenever I could, but without consistent training, I’ve lost a lot of fitness.

Despite the challenges, I’ve tried to make a comeback. Several comebacks. ‘I can juggle everything,’ I’d tell myself. ‘I can!’

Feeling positive that I could fit everything in, I’d write out a new programme, but then life would get even more hectic and I’d struggle to complete week one. My failure became a bit of a joke.

‘Are you still on week one?’ friends, family, the woman from the local shop would ask. I’d nod and laugh, then I’d try again, each time more determined to get back to training. But then would come another failure and another and another. For the last four months, I’ve been trying but failing, trapped in a week-one limbo.

Failing is difficult. It made me feel bad about myself and frustrated that I didn’t have enough hours in the day to do everything to the standard I wanted. Why couldn’t I just make it happen? What was wrong with me? Why had I let my fitness slide? I was rubbish. Would I ever get my fitness back?

So, when my friend mentioned it during pie-night, the feelings of failure were so overwhelming that I knew I had to do something about it, once and for all. And, like many things, the changes started with mindset.

Here’s how I stopped feeling like a failure and started taking action.

Accept what’s happened
You can’t change what’s happened. Stop worrying about it. Accept it.
I kept going over things in my head, beating myself up about not training. I couldn’t turn the clock back. All I could do was accept the current situation.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself, and move on
I got fed up of listening to myself harping on about the long commute and how unfit I was and how life was so busy and how I didn’t have time to train anymore… On it went! And then I just decided that I’d had enough. It was time to stop feeling sorry for myself and make a change. If you are constantly feeling sorry for yourself the cycle will continue. You’ll probably end up feeling worse and make the same mistakes. Look at why you failed, analyse what went wrong. Start making changes and move on.

Embrace failure
Everyone fails. It’s a part of life. The best way to cope with failure is to embrace it and learn from it. It’s how you’re going to get better. Failing at something could change everything.

Believe in yourself
You are not a failure. Rather than dwelling on failure, think about all your achievements and successes. If you believe that you can do it, you are much more likely to achieve your goal.

Develop Resilience
Do not give up on your goals because of one setback. Work hard and keep going. You’ll get there. When I was younger, I wasn’t in the slightest bit athletic. I was overweight and not great at sport. Running was something other people did. When I did eventually start running, I enjoyed it, and by working hard and being determined I’ve managed to achieve things that my younger self would never have thought possible.

You’re not a failure
Just because something hasn’t gone to plan doesn’t make you a failure. One setback doesn’t mean you’ll fail the next time.

Celebrate your achievements, even the small ones
When you achieve one thing it’s easy to move straight onto the next. Take the time to celebrate and recognise what you have achieved. Rather than seeing the negatives, see the positives.

Try again. Keep going. Believe you can do it.

If it inspires you in any way, and I hope it does, despite all the week one failures, I started again. And this time, I succeeded. I’m now into week five!

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