Have you experienced the sting of failure recently?
This is best talked over with a tasty drink. So grab yours and join me.
Got One? Great!
Failure comes in all sizes: from slight discomfort to devastation that changes who you are. There’s a lot of talk on failure as something that happens to you.
What about choosing to let things fail?
I was having a conversation with a good friend recently about a big choice I had to make five years ago
Keep my 57 year old mother on life support or let her body fail.
Words cannot describe how f****d up that choice was.
Usually when this comes up, I often get the reaction: “I can’t imagine ever being able to do that”. Which is followed by: “How did you do it?”
I’ve spent a long time unpacking that question; for the longest time, I had no idea how to answer.
When Are You Faced With Choosing Failure?
I don’t think anyone intentionally let’s things fail unless they’re at the point where they don’t have any other options. From what I can tell, letting things fail breakdown into a few generalized situations:
- Protecting or preserving some other aspect.
- All options are a shit sandwich so choices are made to limit the damage.
If you’re overloaded at work, like doing 2 people’s jobs, you do your best to be efficient and keep on top of everything. This may be workable for a short time. You can’t keep up forever though. Something is bound to fall through the cracks, your health will be impacted, you may burn out, family/friend relationships may be affected…
Limit The Damage
Generally you’re in a shitty situation or things are already blowing up around you. There are no great options but some are more catastrophic to you than others This all depends on what’s important and the situation of course.
Recognize and Accept Reality
Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of everything, it’s hard to recognize what is unfolding. You’re so busy running trying to keep on top of everything, making things work or in the grips of strong emotions, you don’t see the forest for the trees.
First you need to be able to step back and recognize what’s going on. And equally hard (or maybe harder?), is accepting reality.
In the case of my mom, it was hard to admit that she may not wake up. As time went on, the prognosis went from limited mobility to partial paralysis to likely needing assisted living|maybe being aware|maybe not being aware|maybe never waking. I had to recognize and accept reality before making choices.
In the case of being overworked, there’s no denying things will fail around you. You need to admit you can’t do it all before you can choose what to let fail. Sure it won’t feel good, but at least you can make choices instead of simply living with the results and consequences.
Choose What Will Fail
Knowing you have choices can be empowering. It’s a brief sweet spot of suspended animation where you know your situation will change. It may bring some relief, hope and maybe even joy.
Eventually you need to make choices. Choosing can be scary. Making a choice is a commitment. You’re out of suspended animation and propelling yourself down a path and solidifying certain realities of inevitable discomfort or negative feels.
Actively letting something fail doesn’t mean it will feel good. It may a better outcome than if you hadn’t chosen, but that doesn’t diminish the emotional impact. This is where knowing your motivation can really help.
Staying the Course
Once you’ve made the tough decisions, carrying through can be tough. Our minds are crafty at devising excuses or playing out what if scenarios to avoid any discomfort. There are many coping mechanisms to keeping your resolve. For me, it’s keeping the reason driving the choice, or what’s at stake in firm view.
In past experience, I’ve found going back and forth after making a decision increases mental fatigue and can make matters worse. Choosing to let something fail is hard enough without adding more debate or cleaning up a bigger mess.
Confidence in your choice
While you may have doubts while you’re trying to stay the course, this is mostly about dealing with second guessing yourself in the after math. Once things are done and you’re having to live with your choices.
Let me tell you, no matter what you choose, you’ll have moments of doubt; it’s almost impossible to escape it. What helps, at least for me, is staying in the present. Focus on reality and remember the reason behind your choice (protect/preserve X or limit damage).
As the prognosis for my mom got worse, so did my choices. She was an independent person and hated being dependent on anyone for anything. Medical staff are rarely able to offer 100% certainty. It was unlikely she would wake up. Or if she did, that she would have any quality of life. So the choice was keeping her on life support, and hoping for an unlikely outcome where if she did wake up, she wouldn’t hate being alive, or letting her body fail.
Terrible options all around. So this was a case of limiting the damage. Choosing the least worst option. I knew she’d never want to spend her life hooked up to machines so… I know that sounds like messed up logic, but it really did point me in a direction.
Deal With The Fall Out
There’s always benefits and consequences to everyday choices, especially when you choose to let things fail.
There will be unpleasant feelings, discomfort and consequences to deal with. There’s no avoiding that. It’s life.
What can help?
Have confidence in your choice and stay the course by focusing on reality and a clear perspective of what’s driving your choices.
Focus on the positives. Go easy on yourself.
Letting Things Fail In Personal Finance
The same skills can be applied to any difficult decisions affecting your personal finances:
- protecting your earning potential
- maintaining a budget
- reaching financial goals
- aligning your budget with your values
- living authentically
- paying off debt
It bares mentioning what looks like success and failure is not universal. Working 80hr weeks to reach FI or get a promotion for job you’re not passionate about will look like success to one person, while appearing like a wasted life not pursuing your passion to another.
Choosing to let things fail may be hard, but hey, at least it’s YOUR CHOICE.
Any experiences, thoughts or comments to share?