There’s not much in life more discouraging than failure – except perhaps, the full feeling of failure. Many people fail at something, yet don’t feel like failures. And many other people constantly feel like failures though they succeed greatly.
Every life is full of ups and downs, successes and failures. Everyone gets “bucked off the horse” at one point or another. The important thing in life is not whether or not you get bucked (fail), but what you do afterward.
My Bucking Broncos
Regular readers of this blog will probably notice that my postings have reduced significantly since about June 2014. This is for a variety of reasons, not least of which includes: I failed my attempt at the TOPIK II.
Actually, I didn’t take the TOPIK until July 20 and didn’t get my results back until sometime in August, so my downward motivational slide began some time before that. But, though I thought I wasn’t so affected by it at the time, it is true that failing the TOPIK II had a (gradual) significant impact on my motivation to continue studying Korean.
Why I failed where I’d previously “rocked it”: I just didn’t try as hard. I thought it would be “easy” – or at least as easy as the first time. Although I trained consistently, it was more like I just showed up at the gym to chat up my friends while stretching than giving it a real “Rocky-like intensity.”
Another major source of de-motivation came from my day job. I was transferred over to the Fashion Department and required to teach a “Global Fashion Business” class with absolutely no training in anything even relatively related to fashion, nor any interest in the subject at all. There was no book, no previous syllabus, no guidance for the class, and no leveling of their English ability. I was basically given a newly “invented” class filled with 40 students whose English levels ranged from “I don’t even know what day it is today” to “I could probably lecture this class in English better than you.”
How I felt about it:
How it happened: That college (Culture & Tourism) was applying for a government grant for a program, BUT they needed a certain number of “official” expat English teachers on their “staff” in order to qualify. A handful of us (7) were asked to simply sign our contracts over to them “unofficially” to aid their bid for the grant money. Nothing was going to change. That is, until the uni President got wind of it. Then he said, “Uh uh uh. If you want these teachers on your ‘staff’, then you’ve got to give them REAL classes.” Ooops. Nobody expected that one – least of all me.
Actually, giving me (educational background in computer programming and media design/advertising) Fashion (I can’t even match my own socks) is like enrolling a penguin in Eagle Flight School. I mean yeah, I’ve got wings, but I’m so much better in the water than in the air.
And actually, it was largely due to my feeling of helplessness in this situation that caused me to figuratively throw my hands up in the air and declare myself “an English teacher no longer.” Consider this a turning point in my life. I will no longer pursue “English teaching” as a viable career choice – from here on out, my computer-related / WordPress /web development / graphic design work will receive the bulk of my energies.
Get Back in the Saddle Again
So, what to do now? Life is changed, motivation has waned, the mountains loom, progress seems doomed (nice rhyme, right?). How do you get back up on that horse that bucked you?
1. Return to your “Why”
Revisit your motivation for wanting to do this thing in the first place. Some horses are not necessary to re-mount – they’ll just hold you back from your primary goals (like my “English teaching as a career choice”).
But there are also some horses that also will stand in the way of you realizing your vision unless you break them (no one who dreams of winning a derby will do so without riding a horse, likewise, no one who dreams of working “non-English” in Korea will do so without Korean).
So, WHY do you want to “get back in this saddle again”? Where is your vision leading you?
2. Reflect on your Past, Present, and Future
Reflection has many purposes and will serve you well in this instance:
- Look at your progress. How far have you already come?
- Reflect in gratitude. What are you thankful for that’s come out of this already?
- Reassess your goals. Where are you headed and how do you intend to get there?
3. Stand back up Slowly
I remember when I was in high school one day I was riding my bicycle down a relatively steep hill at about 40 miles/hr (65 km/hr). I looked over my shoulder briefly to be sure no cars were trying to pass me – they weren’t – and this time my sudden motion (which I’d performed 100s of times on the same hill previously) set my front tire shimmying left and right. I lost control of the bike and though I tried to slam on the brakes, it had little effect. I slammed down onto the pavement simultaneously breaking my helmet, my front tire and front fork, and my left shoulder blade in half (not to mention all the road rash that my mother then got to help clean up for the next month – it nearly made her, a medical technician, sick).
Needless to say, it was months before I healed, and months more before I bought a new bike to replace the old one. And when I first hopped on a bike again (after 4-6 months), I almost lost control just gliding down our driveway. It was scary. I’d almost permanently wrecked my life (thank you, helmet) only very recently and the memory was still fresh in my mind. For the next few weeks, I rode slowly around our neighborhood before I had the courage to get back out on the roads again.
Likewise, when you get knocked off your horse, give yourself a little extra time to get back up to a full gallop.
4. Approach the Future with Courage and Confidence
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the ability to be very afraid and still do what is right and good anyway.
Imagine your life 10-20 years from now. Will you still be down and out? Or will you be up and about, riding that horse confidently that once threw you? Don’t wait.
Act today the reality you wish to see tomorrow. (Fake it ’til you make it – then make it stick.)
5. Dedicate Yourself to RE-Education
Chances are, you’re likely down and out – “bucked off your horse” – for a good reason. You probably either:
- Didn’t have enough or the right kind of knowledge to tackle your problem, or
- Approached the problem from the wrong direction
Admit to yourself that you were wrong, then dedicate yourself to learning how to become right. You either need:
- New information or skills, or
- To change your approach
Determine which of these you need, and then Make a Game Plan.
6. Establish Your Steps
And now comes the moment you change your life. Once you’ve solidified your basic mindset (as mentioned above) you’re ready to get the ball rolling again. And this process best comes with intention, purpose, and a view toward the long-term. Once again:
- Solidify your mindset
- Return to your “WHY”
- Reflect on your PROGRESS
- Reflect with GRATITUDE
- Reflect on your previous GOALS (what worked / what didn’t?)
- Move SLOWLY forward (like pushing a flywheel)
- Be COURAGEOUS and CONFIDENT as you move forward
- Establish your steps
- With intention: WHERE are you going?
- With purpose: WHY are you going there?
- Thinking long-term: WHAT will this look like in 10 years? 5 years? 3 years? 1 year?
Now break down your goals incrementally and get after it!~
And one more final piece of advice – one of the best I ever received about goal setting:
Add 30% MORE time to your goals to allow their accomplishment than you initially anticipate because life happens and you never know what may come along at any time to scare your bronco into bucking again. Anticipate failures, wrong turns, and dead-ends, and plan accordingly. Don’t be discouraged!~