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September Chaplain's Reflections

  • Published
  • By Capt. Benjamin McEntire
  • 169th Fighter Wing

When Your Best Isn’t Enough


One of the things I appreciate about the military culture is the push to do and be your best. It just makes sense for us to have a drive to do and be the best we can. In our line of work that makes the difference between mission success and mission failure. While giving what we do, everything we’ve got is essential, sometimes the demand is so great it’s truly impossible for it to be met. How should we handle situations where the best we can do just isn’t enough? Here are several tips to recover when we face failure after giving our best:


Find any mistakes or errors on your part and learn from them: The first thing you need to do is analyze the situation to find out where you might have made a mistake. If there was something that you could or should have done differently, acknowledge it and learn from it.


Let go of self-blame and self-condemnation: Sometimes failures that were out of our control end badly, and sometimes others suffer because of it. Blaming ourselves for the situation does nothing but add to the amount needless suffering. Worse, by condemning ourselves for something out of our control, we hold ourselves back from improving ourselves in response to the situation.


Use the failure to inspire self-improvement: While certain problems can come our way where no amount of self-improvement will help, in many cases we can improve upon our best so that the next time we face a certain problem our best is a much greater resource. There are many possible areas of improvement and ways to improve. For example, a financial shortcoming can help motivate you to develop a solid budget that gets you out of debt, and creates an emergency fund equal to your income for 3-6 months, thus helping you avoid future financial crises. An emotional outburst that ruins a relationship can be the motivation needed to get counseling, improving your ability to manage your emotions, work through past issues, and face future difficulties. Low performance on a Physical Training test, or a physical health issue rooted in an unhealthy lifestyle can inspire you to change your lifestyle in a way that prioritizes healthy eating and exercise.


Clarify your sense of purpose and source of value: Does the loss of an ability or source of work mean one has less value in the grand scheme of things than someone else? Absolutely not! While most people recognize that all people hold intrinsic value regardless of their job or abilities, one pervasive problem today is that most get their sense of purpose and their source of value solely in their ability to perform their job. For example, note how professional athletes can base their sense of worth on their abilities, or models on their appearance. The problem with making your work or abilities the source of your purpose or value is that they aren’t certain. An accident, a health crisis, aging, an unexpected job loss, or a significant failure of some sort can diminish or eliminate abilities, jobs, or both. What happens to an athlete whose abilities are lost due to an injury, or a model whose appearance fades over time? To avoid the crisis such a loss can create, one should find meaning and purpose in ways that aren’t limited to a specific occupation or finite abilities. When a person’s sense of worth is placed in something beyond their own capacity or a single occupation, when failure or loss occurs, the person isn’t too shaken by it.


Find strength in community: When our best turns out not to be enough, it can feel like we’re the only one who has ever experienced it. In reality, many have had such experiences and come away stronger as a result of them. That’s why connecting with others is important—the broader our social circle is, the more likely it is that we will find others who can help us walk down a path similar to their own. In the case of the military, there are also professionals such as chaplains, the Director of Psychological Health, Family Readiness, and others who can offer professional advice and counsel on ways you can come away stronger from your experiences. If you’d like to connect with a chaplain for confidential counseling about an issue in your life, call 803-647-8265, or stop by our office in the Wing Headquarters building.