Sometimes, life just doesn’t go as planned. You’ve probably witnessed that multiple times already. You have a big goal, and break it down into actionable steps. You do the work. And you’re consistent with it.
But then, one day, you wake up to find that everything is going out of control. And now after you were one step ahead, suddenly, you’re two steps back.
Does that mean that you’ve failed? Does that mean that your success has faded away?
What should be our thoughts when things don’t go our way? And how should we respond in such cases?
In this post, we’re covering all the answers to these questions. But before we do, we need to start off by asking ourselves: What is failure? And what is success?
What Is Failure?
To understand what really failure means, pragmatically speaking, we need to detach ourselves from the definitions that are found in dictionaries. If you look up the term “failure” in any dictionary, you’ll find entries like the ones I found in Merriam-Webster:
- A lack of success in some effort
- A situation or occurrence in which something does not work as it should
- An occurrence in which someone does not do something that should be done
But at a closer look, these definitions can be problematic. For one, how can you be 100% sure that you’re lacking success in the first place?
You can never be 100% sure about anything, because what usually happens is that God puts you in a place where you feel like you’re in the darkest part of your life — only to find it leading you to a better place than the one you initially wanted.
A lot of times, we want certain goals so badly that we make tons of duas, and we can stay up all night working on our visions. But then, they just don’t work. No matter how much we tried, they just don’t work out for us, and we might eventually give up.
However, as time goes by, God starts to gradually reveal to us why He had to keep us from these goals.
If anything, we all have many things in our lives that we can look back at and say to ourselves, “I really wanted that so long ago. Alhamdulillah, that I didn’t get it. I really didn’t know any better back then. SubhanAllah, God saved me!”
What can be bad, however, is when you have something that you succeeded at a long time ago, but it no longer means anything to you right now.
We can chase a whole career and become really successful in it — only to lose our inspiration, and go for a career shift. In fact, in times like these, we’d often think that we wasted our time on something that wasn’t sustainable.
And so, how can we know that our current failures are actually “failures” and not God saving us from something that we’re not made aware of? Likewise, how can we know that our current successes are actually “successes”?
Forbes redefines success and failure in a very beautiful way:
- Success, noun. The state of living and working according to our values
- Failure, noun. The state of living and working in a way that isn’t aligned with our values
If we shift our perspectives to defining failure and success according to whether or not we’re living lives that align with our values, we’ll become more receptive to God’s interventions when we unknowingly drift out of track.
Redefining failures and successes will help us recognize when it’s the right time to let God take the lead once again.
It’s really similar to when you’re learning how to drive a car. As a beginner, you’ll have your coach with you. And as long as you’re doing well, they’re letting you have all the control. But, at the same time, they’re closely watching you so that they can pull up the brake just in time before you screw up and have an accident.
And so, sometimes, we need to recognize that it’s our time to get our foot off the gas pedal and let God handle the situation at hand. Because if we don’t trust God, then we’re risking chasing goals that could be out of alignment with our true purposes.
In that case, if we resist God’s will every single time, God will let us see that success, but then we’ll realize that it doesn’t align with who we are. And thus, it becomes worthless.
So What Should I Do Exactly When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned?
Maybe you’re currently thinking to yourself, “What if my failure is actually me being rejected in the only job/school major that I wanted?”
If that’s your case, first off, your feelings are truly valid. This is your dream; you believe you can’t imagine yourself living without that dream. And so, you have every right to be disappointed.
But if you want to make the most of such cases, what’s best to do is to think of that rejection as a redirection. In that sense, you’re not rejected in a job interview; you’re redirected by God to another opportunity that will actually get you to the same end goal that you have in mind.
And so, here’s what we need to do when life doesn’t go as planned: Instead of thinking about failure, let’s think about faith.
For one, failure doesn’t come alone — it loves company.
So when you think about failure, you’ll immediately have fear slip into your heart. Now, when you’re in a state of fear, you won’t think straight. And when you don’t think straight, your decisions and actions will be defective.
However, when we talk about faith, we mean the unquestionable faith you have in your driving coach that can make you immediately take your foot off the gas pedal once they pull up the brake and say, “Oh my God! I didn’t see that! Thank you!”
We don’t mean the shaken kind of faith that goes like, “I’m not sure if God is really doing what’s best for me.” Now, if your faith sounds anything like this, it’s part of our human nature. We’re created to be skeptical. In fact, even the prophets had moments when they needed assurance from God.
However, whenever you find that your life isn’t going as planned, don’t entertain thoughts about the old hackneyed definitions of failure.
Instead, keep reminding yourself of the past times when you were doubtful, but God showed you that He has your back. Remind yourself that deep inside you, you actually trust God just as you would trust your driving coach. And remind yourself that God rewards you because of the way that you think of Him.
We want to be mindful of the fact that God has the ultimate power and that sometimes we should recognize when it’s our time to pause and learn what He wants us to learn.
The Bottom Line
Life doesn’t always go as planned — and that’s okay.
Sometimes we just don’t know any better. For that reason, we need to see why things aren’t working so that we can get back on track with what really aligns with who we are.
In fact, the more receptive we are to God’s interventions, the easier it will be for us to develop as individuals in a way that truly serves our values.