Coaching Through Failure

Goals are hard to set, much less achieve, when we struggle with a sense of failure. Even as I prepare to write this post I find myself struggling to believe, in light of my shortcomings, that I have something valuable to give to the world of Christian coaching. While failure, real or perceived, is not always immobilizing, it can be one thing which keeps us stuck and unable to move toward our dreams, desires and goals. Thankfully, it does not have to be. Someone has said, "Failure is not a statement about you. It’s a statement about what happened." While that is true in one sense, we can't deny that failure impacts deeply and personally. As coaches, how can we help those we serve overcome obstacles rooted in failure?

1. Confront False Perceptions. Perceived failure can wreak havoc with identity. When we allow failure to be the lens through which we see ourselves, God and others, the truth is exchanged for lies. The coach can help combat these false perceptions by asking questions such as, Where did that thought come from? What if God had more to say about this event? If you could hear, really hear, what God is saying about you in this moment, what might that sound like? 

In other words, what does God have to say about your client in the coaching session? What are some questions which can help them confront false self-perceptions which have built up over time and to find rest and contentment in God's acceptance and approval?

2. Take Time to Process. As time passes we often become aware of the back story surrounding our perceived failures.  These can be clues to God's grand design, only visible in hindsight. This new understanding brings fresh perspective, which then becomes some of the raw material we use to overcome failure and ensure future success. As coaches, we come alongside with acceptance, affirmation, and lots of good questions to walk our clients through this process of discovery.

Outside the coaching session, your client may need to go a step further by processing with a trusted friend or spouse. Whether we are coaching  someone through failure or the fear of failure, it's critical that we allow time for the rich and productive work of processing.

3. Re-Define Success. When we returned to the states following 16 years of service in Central Asia, I began struggling with the weight of failure. I had made some ministry decisions which kept our family apart for unhealthy periods of time. This led to a lifestyle which contradicted one of my core values of putting family first. As we processed this together, my wife and I realized that we needed to change things up in a way which allowed us to live out of those values. That meant extracting ourselves from work commitments to ensure more time together as a family. It was a painful yet necessary decision.

Over time, the sense of failure has been replaced by an awareness that success goes way beyond always making the right decisions. Success is about a willingness to re-discover who we are in light of God's truth and to re-align ourselves with our core values.

Go on. Take the First Step.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."  - Winston Churchill

Fear of failure can be overcome by taking the first step toward our dreams and goals. As we challenge our clients to take action, providing a healthy dose of encouragement and affirmation along the way, we can help them gain the courage they need to defeat fear and overcome failure.

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