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Properly Assess Your Failure

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment.
—Romans 12:3

To learn from your failures and start a second act in your life, you must first properly assess your failure. Failure is not an event; it’s a judgment about an event. That judgment may be accurate or inaccurate.

In his book “Learned Optimism,” Martin Seligman describes three different perspectives of failure that separate successful people from unsuccessful people.

  1. Permanent or Temporary. An unsuccessful person views his failure as permanent. He says things like, “I always mess up close relationships.” Or, “I never make good investments.” The successful person views his failure as temporary. He says, “I have made a mess of this relationship, but that doesn’t mean every relationship is that way.” “I may have made a bad investment here, but I don’t always make bad investments.”
  2. Universal or Specific. An unsuccessful person allows his failure to bleed over into every area of his life. If he is fired from a job, for example, he thinks, “I’m a failure in every part of my life.” When one thread of his life snaps, the whole fabric of his life unravels. But a successful person views his failure as specific. He says, “I have failed in this area of my life, but that doesn’t mean every area of my life is a failure.”
  3. Internal or External. An unsuccessful person internalizes his mistakes. If a woman goes through a divorce, she says, “The divorce happened because I am worthless and unlovable.” But a successful person recognizes failure as external. She says, “This marriage failed because of circumstances, not because of who I am as a person.” Now, you still need to fess up to your mess-ups. But don’t take ownership for circumstances that are clearly out of your control.

If you are going to turn your messes into successes, it is extremely important to properly assess your failure.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Don’t Mess Up for Free” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2016.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Martin E. P. Seligman, “Learned Optimism” (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990).


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