The 7 Reasons We Fail

UPDATED: September 22, 2023
PUBLISHED: October 15, 2022
The 7 Reasons We Fail

As any successful person will honestly admit, failure happens, and we’ve all had our fair share of it. But from each failure, we learn two equally valuable lessons: That there was at least one reason we failed, and that we can rebound from that failure.

So, why do we fail? And how do we fix it?

According to Shiv Khera, author of You Can Win, failures most often occur for one of seven reasons. And Harvey Mackay, best-selling author and business speaker, says each one can teach us something valuable, and can show us how to avoid falling back into the same hole.

Here are the most common failure-causing problems and their solutions:

1. Lack of persistence

More people fail not because they lack knowledge or talent but because they just quit. It’s important to remember two words: persistence and resistance. Persist in what must be done and resist what ought not to be done.

Try new approaches. Persistence is important, but repeating the same actions over and over again, hoping that this time you’ll succeed, probably won’t get you any closer to your objective. Look at your previous unsuccessful efforts and decide what to change. Keep making adjustments and midcourse corrections, using your experience as a guide.

2. Lack of conviction

People who lack conviction take the middle of the road. What happens in the middle of the road? You get run over. People without conviction go along to get along because they lack confidence and courage. They conform in order to be accepted, even when they know that what they are doing is wrong.

Decide what is important to you. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right and doing well. Let your passion show even in mundane tasks. It’s OK to collaborate and cooperate for success, but it’s never OK to compromise your values.

3. Rationalization

Winners might analyze, but they never rationalize. Losers rationalize and have a book full of excuses to tell you why they couldn’t succeed.

Change your perspective. Don’t think of every unsuccessful attempt as a failure. Few people succeed at everything the first time. Most of us attain our goals only through repeated effort. Do your best to learn everything you can about what happened and why.

4. Dismissal of past mistakes

Some people live and learn, and some only live. Failure can be a teacher if we have the right attitude. Wise people learn from their mistakes—experience is the name they give to slip-ups.

Define the problem better. Analyze the situation—what did you want to achieve, what was your strategy, why didn’t it work—and consider if you are really viewing the problem correctly. If you need money, you have more options than increasing revenue. You could also cut expenses. Think about what you’re really trying to do.

5. Lack of discipline

No one who has accomplished anything worthwhile has done it without discipline. Discipline takes self-control, sacrifice, and avoiding distractions and temptations. It means staying focused.

Don’t be a perfectionist. You might have an idealized vision of what success will look and feel like which, while motivational, may not be realistic. Succeeding at one goal won’t eliminate all your problems. Be clear on what will satisfy your objectives and don’t obsess over superficial details.

6. Poor self-esteem

Poor self-esteem is a lack of self-respect and self-worth. People with low self-confidence are constantly trying to find themselves rather than creating the person they want to be.

Don’t label yourself. You might have failed, but you’re not a failure until you stop trying. Think of yourself as someone still striving toward a goal, and you’ll be better able to maintain your patience and perseverance for the long haul.

7. Fatalistic attitude

A fatalistic attitude prevents people from accepting responsibility for their position in life. They attribute success and failure to luck. They resign themselves to their fate, regardless of their efforts, and assume whatever has to happen will happen anyway.

Look in the mirror every day and say, I am in charge. You might not have control over every aspect of your life, but you have more control than you realize, and you are responsible for your own happiness and success. Your attitude determines your altitude, and you can turn “down and out” into “up and at ’em.”

Are you ready to take charge of your life and stop failing? The Win the Day Accelerator with James Whittaker is designed to give you the tools you need to unlock your full potential. The 8-part program will help you transform your life and achieve extraordinary results, personally and professionally.

This article was published in June 2017 and has been updated. Photo by Marjan Apostolovic/Shutterstock

Harvey Mackay is a businessman and columnist. Mackay is perhaps best known as the author of five business bestsellers, including Swim With the Sharks, Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt and Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty.