7 signs you’re about to fail (and what to do about it)

“Failure is an event, not a person.”

I’m not sure who said that, but it resonates with me. Labelling ourselves a failure is like tying a lead weight to our ankles and then diving off the nearest bridge, and expecting to float.

I believe that very often the biggest stuff that gets in our way is the stuff we throw in our own paths. This is true both personally and professionally.

My work with clients has shown me ways of thinking that can make or break you – you can choose success or you can choose failure. Here are the 7 most common ways of thinking that I’ve come across (and embraced myself)…and what to do about them.

7 ways you’re embracing “failure thinking” at work


1. You are not being you.

You may be feeling uncomfortable in your work  role or with some element of it – this could be because you’re not living your true values and compromising your beliefs. You may be trying hard to be someone else, either to fit in with the expected culture or because you’ve met someone who embodies success…the problem is, it’s their definition of success, not yours.

Authenticity is key – this involves understanding yourself and being comfortable with who you are.

Understanding the values of the industry in which you work, and seeing how far they match your own values is a good place to start – if there is a big mis-match, then you may have some re-thinking to do. I wrote about authenticity here .

2. You’re not doing what makes you happy.

How many of us are stuck in jobs that we’ve fallen into and years later we realise that we’ve wasted most of our working lives? Are you ‘putting up’ with a situation because it’s not unbearable but you’re not feeling the ‘love’ either? It’s not enough to be doing something that you’re good at – it needs to make you happy too.

Often, we don’t understand what makes us happy. I’ve written about that here. So it’s time to find out. Write down  a list of everything you do at work – every task. Give yourself a score out of 10 for each task, 1= miserable/hating it and 10= you’d do this for free. How did you get on? If you are lacking much above  8, then maybe it’s time to make another list – this time filled with things you know you really enjoy, and then think about how you can get to do more of them.

3. Not asking for what you want.

It’s surprising how many of us develop the ability to mind read. We don’t ask for new roles and responsibility, promotions, part-time working or flexible hours, new challenges or help…because we already think we know that answer to the questions.

Of course the first step is working out what we do want. And then taking a deep breath, maybe a risk or two and going for it.  Learn to improve your communication skills with the people who matter, be creative and prepared and you’ll stack the cards in your favour.

4. You don’t have a success team.

You’re going it all alone and feeling overwhelmed and out of your depth. You have no-one to bounce ideas off, or help you put things in perspective. Surrounding ourselves with people who will challenge us, support us and motivate us is crucial.

Find yourself someone you can confide in, someone who will push you further than you think you want to go, someone who will champion you and someone who will inspire you.

5. You’re not taking risks.

You are playing it safe and while you may have ambition or a desire to achieve certain goals, playing it small stops you from achieving what you are truly capable of. At some point you need to take a risk –  have a ‘so what’ moment and see what happens.

If you have a success team around you, and you know what you want, this becomes much easier. So what if it doesn’t come off  – you’ve learned something valuable about what you need to do next to succeed. And guess what – it might just pay off!

6. You’re too focused on failure.

Maybe one of the reasons you’re not taking risks is because you can’t get past the times when things haven’t quite gone the way you expected. So  what? You got a different outcome than you wanted, so how are you going to use that to move forward? Or maybe you’re stuck at the ‘what if’s…

Well, what if, this time, you get it right? Plan to fail; embrace it and do it regularly. But see it as a way of learning to succeed – each time you fail you are a step closer to a recipe for success. Failure teaches us what we need to succeed. Get into the habit of asking for feedback and use it to improve.

7. You’re forgetting your successes.

We succeed at a thousand tiny things every day, but we simply dismiss them as inconsequential. The chances are, you are not focussed on your achievements and don’t see them as clearly as other people do.

Write a list of everything you have achieved professionally, and the role you played in those achievements. I’ve written more about success here.

Remember – your success starts with you. Have you ever succumbed to these ways of thinking? What did you do to overcome them?

Susan Ritchie

Susan Ritchie is a leadership coach who specialises in working with new and aspiring female leaders, helping them develop their leadership presence, so they can lead with confidence, create the right impact and excel in their role. She’s the author of Strategies for Being Brilliant: 21 Ways to be Happy, Confident and Successful.
She can be found at www.susanritchie.co.uk where you can download 5 Steps To Developing Your Leadership Presence – and why not come and say hello on twitter @susanjritchie.

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