You're not a failure if your Plan A falls through.


Maybe you have a master’s degree but can’t find a job that uses your skills.Maybe you took a risk and moved for a job that you hated once you got there. Maybe you got let go from a good job and have no idea what’s next. Maybe you spent years getting into an industry that wasn't the greatest fit.

These are all the stories of people I've coached, except for the last (that would be me).

When your Plan A falls apart or blows up in your face and you don’t have a backup, it's normal for life to feel unbalanced and uncertain for awhile.

It can be easy to start questioning your judgment or lose trust in your ability to make good choices. Maybe you feel trapped, lost, stuck, frustrated, helpless. I know I did, at various points in my journey. I also felt hopeful, optimistic, and relieved - but those weren't the times when I needed comfort or advice.

When I feel like a failure, this is what I want to hear.

There is a time for pep talks, and there is a time for someone to sit next to you and rub your back and say, "I'm sorry, sweetie, that sucks. You're gonna get through this." This post is the latter type (but tune in later for the other stuff!).

It’s okay to be pissed that your nice road-map is now a crumpled smoldering mess.

For reals. The time for looking for silver linings and growth opportunities will come. Sometimes to get there you have to scream, cry, journal, or vent first. Let's face it: starting over kind of sucks - even if, like me, you did it on purpose.

You are not a failure.

People try things, and sometimes they don’t work out. It doesn't mean you made a bad decision or have poor judgment. This situation doesn’t have to define you, and you can learn from it when you're ready to look at it in a new way. That doesn't have to happen today.

It’s not necessarily true that things would have worked...

...if you had only been braver, smarter, or more diligent. Perfection is not protection against life’s slings and arrows. Try not to beat yourself up for not being better.

You can figure this out.

You have more resources than you realize. It’s normal to be unable to see them right now because marshaling your resources while in a state of panic is like trying to solve a Where’s Waldo when the book is on fire. It’s okay, just know that they’re there.

You don’t have to have everything figured out right now.

All you need to know is whatever will get you through the next day, or hour, or breath.

You may feel like you screwed up somewhere along the way. Whether or not that’s true, you still deserve kindness (yes, even from yourself).

It’s okay to hide when you need to.

You don’t have to act strong and smile for everyone when what you need at the end of a long day is tea and blankets and a good book.

You don’t have to try so hard.

If you’re doing your best, that’s enough. Possibilities and opportunities are easier to see when you’re not all twisted up inside, so do what you can and try to let the rest go for now.

You don’t have to figure this out by yourself.

You are not alone. It's okay to ask for help, or to admit that this is too much for you to deal with right now.

The people I've coached through situations like the ones at the beginning of this article are all in happier, more stable places than where they started. One thing I've learned from the journeys I've witnessed is that contrary to most people's expectations, you don't wait until after you've formulated a Plan B to relax. Instead, the process of calming your stressful thoughts is vital to figuring out your next steps. That's where your real work is, and the first step is accepting where you are right now (even if it sucks). After that, the rest takes care of itself.

I'll be writing more about this in the near future, and I hope you'll stick around for my next posts! If you subscribe to my newsletter, they'll get delivered right to your inbox and you'll also get my free workbook Be Your Own Career Detective: 4 Steps to Deducing a Career Path That's Right for You.

Image credit: N.K.

Back to the Article Library