What do you do with a total failure?

I’ve mentioned a few times in the past that somewhere around February or so of last year, I made a goal of deadlifting 405 by January 1, 2011.  Well, I didn’t get to pull on Jan. 1st or the 2nd.  But yesterday (the 3rd) I had a gap in my training and figured I would warm-up and get ready to hopefully pull a new personal record.

I felt OK during my warm-up and and as I added weight to the bar, things were going smoothly.  I worked up to 325 which didn’t feel too bad and decided that I would first start with 385.  If that felt good I could give 405 a shot.  To make this story short, my attempt at 385 was an EPIC failure.  I barely got it to budge.  To say I was mad would be a huge understatement.  I was furious.  (You can ask John, the owner of the gym.  He witnessed the whole thing.)

I had pulled 365 a few months ago, busted my butt getting stronger and now had nothing to show for it.  (At least that was my initial thinking.)

I also started to come up with reasons (or excuses) as to why it didn’t happen.

-The fact that I didn’t get very much sleep the last two nights.

-I wasn’t in a good place mentally to shoot for a  PR.

-My knee, which has continued to give me trouble.

-The toddler that was at the gym with his mom that kept crawling over to my loaded bar and distracting me.

-I felt rushed due to the fact that once I was warmed up and ready to pull, I had 7 minutes before my next session.

I began to excuse what I didn’t accomplish.  Then it hit me, none of that mattered.  The bottom line was that I didn’t set a new PR.  That’s all that mattered.  No matter what reasons I could come up with (legitimate or not) I didn’t accomplish what I wanted to.

I had been working towards this for months.  Now what?

This is a critical moment for anyone in this situation.  When goals aren’t reached, I believe, the next few moments are incredibly important.  Your response to failure determines what you will do with that experience.  I believe there are three possible outcomes:

1. Blame. This is what I started to do.  My first response was to come up with all kinds of reasons as to why I didn’t set a PR.  There were things outside of my control…it wasn’t my fault…I couldn’t help it.  In my experience this is the “go to” outcome after a failure.  As humans, we don’t like to take responsibility.  We want things to be someone else’s fault.  This is a dangerous response.  In fact I would say it’s more of an avalanche than a response.  If nothing is in your control, then that goes for the good things too.  You can’t have it both ways.  If missing a goal isn’t your responsibility, than reaching a goal isn’t your success.


2. Give up. This too, is an all too common response.  It would be really easy for me to say, “This has been a waste of time and I’m done.”  I could easily abandon my efforts.  Although usually when this mentality sets in, it creeps in to other areas of your life too.  This is the reason that you see people who have been trying to lose weight gain it all back because they didn’t get as far as they wanted.  “I only lost 5 pounds instead of 10?…Screw it, where’s the pizza?”

3.  Press on. The last option is to continue to move forward.  Look at where things may have broken down.  Look at how you can do things differently in the future to meet your goals next time.  Or maybe, it’s time to set some new goals and get dialed in on something else.  Either way, get right back at it.

As for me, I’m going with option #3 (even though I really want to go with #1).  (This article came out of nowhere yesterday and helped me realize that pressing on is the only good option.) I’m taking time to look at where I broke down, what I could have done differently, and what I need to change in order to be successful in the future.  I’m going to re-evaluate my goals and maybe set some new ones altogether.  (I have to say that my wife totally rocks.  Knowing how frustrated I was, she took me to see True Grit as a pick me up.)

Failure can either be a stumbling block or a stepping stone.  If your response is to choose either #1 or #2, failure will be a stumbling block that will put you flat on your face.  If you choose the third option, failure can be a huge opportunity to learn and grow.  The choice is 100% yours.

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2 thoughts on “What do you do with a total failure?

  1. Remember, even though you didn’t make your goal, you increased your deadlift by a huge amount in 2010. That’s nothing to sneeze at!

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