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How to Overcome Addiction to Failure

Missed target indicating addicted to failure.

Do you know people who fail at everything they do? Or people who keep trying despite failing time after time? It’s almost as if their motto is “If at first you fail, try to fail again.”

What do you think? Could they be addicted to failure?

A person can constantly fail for many reasons, including lack of persistence or discipline. They could be rationalizing, making excuses, or feeling success is out of their control. Poor planning or not learning from mistakes can play a role. Admittedly, there could also be some form of mental illness.

Depending on the emotional and mental dynamics of a person, low self-esteem and an inadequate belief in oneself can also play a role in ongoing failures. The fear of failure, or even success, can be involved, as it feeds off low self-esteem.

Addiction Defined

The non-clinical definition of addiction is when a person continues to use a substance or perform an activity despite how much harm it continues to cause. They continue because they find their involvement is pleasurable and valuable in some way, at least initially and in the short-term.

A person’s anxiety over succeeding is relieved.

Ironically, when the person addicted to failure fails, their anxiety over succeeding is relieved. He or she has failed again, confirming their inadequacy and low opinion of themselves, something that satisfies them emotionally at some level. They don’t have to face the consequences of succeeding.

Breaking the Cycle of Failure

How does a person break the cycle of failure?

The first step is to make the decision to change. Failure can motivate a person to strive harder to succeed or continue to fail, depending on what satisfies them, what they find valuable, or what relieves their anxiety. It’s a crossroads we all face. The decision needs to be made to succeed, to break the cycle of failing.

Next, part of this decision-making is to decide what success looks like, and what needs to be done to make the changes necessary to break the cycle of failing. The person can also look at the positive versions of actions or inactions involved in his or her failing.

For example, being more persistent and disciplined, not making excuses and being real, listening to advice and learning from mistakes, and believing they can control what’s happening.

Third, if there are emotional dynamics or mental illness in play regarding the person’s self-esteem and other issues, counseling may be helpful. If the person is having trouble with discipline, planning, and other practical skills, life coaching could help them explore ways to have better success and encourage them along the way.

God Needs to Be Involved

Regardless of the dynamics driving the cycle of failure, and whatever corrective actions are taken, God needs to be involved. It’s the Lord our God who gives us the resources to succeed in life, our abilities, experiences, and opportunities.

It’s the Holy Spirit who guides us and empowers us. Ultimately, it’s important for us to discern and obediently carry out God’s will.

Listen to God's Words

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)

For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes. (Proverbs 24:16)

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

Also read: Joshua 1:9, Proverbs 28:23, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

In the Words of Others

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” E.E. Cummings

“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” Cris Jami

“Just because you fail once doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything.” Marilyn Monroe

In Your Words

  • Do you know someone who seems to fail at everything? Using this reflection, consider why you think they keep failing.

  • Do any characteristics described in this reflection apply to you? If yes, identify them and note what comes to mind.

  • What roles do you think God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can play in a person’s breaking the cycle of failure? If you continue to fail, in your cycle of failure?


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