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5 Lessons to Learn from Failure

Any goal worth working towards is going to have its fair share of obstacles and setbacks.  If you’re trying to make a big lifestyle change or cut a bad habit out of your life, chances are that you will not immediately succeed.  Temporary failure is a normal occurrence on the path to success, but unfortunately, we often see failure as a sign that our goals are unattainable.  The truth is that there is a lesson to be learned from each time we are forced to pick ourselves up and try again, and by learning from our failures we can renew our motivation and create lasting positive life change.


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Here are 5 Lessons to Learn from Failure

1. Reconsider Your Strategy

Having a setback on your way to success might mean it is time to look at how you are approaching the problem.  Some major lifestyle changes require that you seek help from knowledgeable and supportive resources that have experience in helping people reach their goals.  Without the right tools, making a dramatic change or kicking a bad habit such as addiction can feel impossible. Asking for help does not make you weak or incapable, but is actually a savvy strategy for attacking your problem from all sides so that it doesn’t stand a chance.  It’s okay if you tried to make a change on your own the first time around, but when it becomes clear that reaching your goal is going to be more of a challenge than you anticipated, it is time to enlist expert help.

2. Focus on What You Can Change

Failure can make you feel powerless and overwhelmed, not knowing how to pick up the pieces of your life and start again.  When it comes time to start over, begin by focusing on the aspects of your life you can control. Too often we are bogged down by the weight of people and situations that we are unable to change, and we become stagnant and unmotivated.  While there will always be forces in life out of your control, there are also many powerful ways in which you can create change right now. For example, you have the power to make healthy choices, and you can begin this very moment. Choose to be more active and make better food choices, and you will be fueling your body and mind in a way that supports positive change in all aspects of your life. 

3. Be Kind to Yourself

One of the biggest challenges of overcoming failure is learning not to beat yourself up every time you don’t accomplish a goal you set for yourself.  While it is important to hold yourself accountable for your actions and take responsibility when you slip up, it is equally as crucial to your success that you don’t succumb to negative thought patterns and overly harsh self-criticism.  Studies have shown that excessive amounts of guilt and shame can hinder growth and development, and make failure more likely to occur again. Try to practice compassion with yourself in the face of failure. It can help to treat yourself like you would treat a good friend going through the same situation, and offer yourself words of encouragement instead of bereavement. 

4. Consider Your Support Team

Failure is a good time to take a look around at the people in your life who have an influence on your behavior.  When you are setting out to make a big change or accomplish a heavy goal, you may not be able to hold on to the people in your life that interfered with you achieving that goal in the past.  For example, if you want to quit drinking, you may have to distance yourself from drinking buddies and other heavy drinkers in your life, as well as those that tell you that you won’t succeed.  Surround yourself with friends and family that love and support you by showing that they understand your goal is a priority in your life, and who encourage you to stay on track and make better choices going forward.

5. Look for Inspiration

When you have fallen off the wagon time and time again on the road to accomplishing your goal, one of the best strategies you can use to change the outcome of your efforts is to look for a model of success in someone you admire.  By finding a mentor or sponsor that has been through the same struggle and successfully made it out the other side, you can count on their advice and input to keep you in line and motivate you to keep going. Anyone who has truly achieved lasting success at making a major life change will tell you that they too struggled with failure, and through that failure, they gathered the tools they needed to reach their goal.  You too can turn your failures into valuable lessons and create a better life.

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Dear Renewal Lodge Visitors,

My name is John Bruna, co-founder of the Mindfulness in Recovery® Institute, and more importantly, a grateful member of the recovery community. I am incredibly fortunate to have found my recovery in 1984. Of course, I did not achieve continuous recovery through willpower or my own efforts, but through the guidance and caring support of countless others that selflessly taught me how to live through the 12 Steps.

My journey of recovery brought this once homeless, shame-based, traumatized, insecure young man to a life far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I discovered self-worth, the joy of helping others, the gifts of parenting and grandparenting, and most importantly the ability to live a meaningful and purposeful life with integrity.

One of the greatest gifts of recovery is that I have the opportunity to give back and help others discover their self-worth, dignity, and the skills to fully live lives that they find truly meaningful. This is the inspiration for developing the skills of Mindfulness in Recovery® (MIR) to meet the needs of new generations struggling with alcohol and other substance use disorders. MIR is a set of evidence-based skills designed to help people fully integrate their tools of recovery in ways that are personalized, practical, and in alignment with their deepest values.

While we train counselors and therapists throughout the United States and abroad, I personally have chosen to work directly with the amazing team and clients at Renewal Lodge to develop the model MIR 12-step program for the nation. I choose Renewal Lodge because of the vision of its mission and the dedication of its team. Renewal Lodge is an extremely rare environment in which the staff embodies the very mindfulness and 12-step practices and skills they offer their clients. The results have been beyond my expectations. It is an honor to be here and I treasure my personal time with every client I meet.

With Gratitude,

John Bruna
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John Bruna
Director of Mindfulness
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