When You Lose An Election

I’ve lost a few elections in my time. It hurt. It left me feeling out of sync and uncertain. It was an emotional rollercoaster ride.

If you’ve lost an election or some type of selection process, I am writing this post for you. I imagine you sitting across a table from me and you’ve just heard the news that someone else has won…someone else has been selected over you. And you’re starting to equate the fact that you just lost with a sense that it means you’re a loser.

First off, stop right there. The one thing I want to say to you right now is THANK YOU!

Thank you for taking a risk and putting yourself out there as a viable candidate. Thank you for recognizing your strengths and giftedness and your willingness to use those for us. Thank you for giving us a choice, a good choice, for the position being filled. Thank you for wanting to make a difference. Thank you for being the one to step up and stand out when a lot of other people sat back and blended in.

I know that right about now you don’t feel like being thanked. You may not feel like what you did or tried to do during your campaign amounted to much of anything. But you have left us all with a great impression of who you are. Just because you weren’t elected or selected doesn’t change the significance of your heart, your desires, your passions, your abilities, your skills, your intentions, or your dreams. It merely changed your plans.

As you spend the next few days working through the all of the thoughts and feelings that come with this, please keep in mind the following:

  1. Even though you lost an election, you’re not a loser.
    Hold your head up. Respond positively. Don’t blame anything or anyone. Everyone who desires to be in an elected or selected position will lose out to someone else at some point.
  2. Take some time right now to thank those who helped you.
    Whether they made posters for your campaign or helped spread the word, make sure you thank them. They’re feeling bad as well (they wanted you to win). Your positive and encouraging words to them will restore their confidence.
  3. Congratulate the person who won.
    This may be difficult but it is absolutely the right thing to do. The campaign and competition is over. Now you are on the same team. Reach out to that person with heartfelt congratulations and offer your support as you both move forward.
  4. Reflect on the campaign.
    The best thing you can do with a failed campaign is to learn from it. What will you do different next time? Who do you need to bring on board? Don’t beat yourself up. Learn what you can from your experience. It will give you an edge when you enter your next campaign or selection process.
  5. Gather yourself.
    You will experience a whirlwind of emotion. Take the time to regroup and find your emotional center. You entered the campaign or process with a lot of confidence. Now that confidence has taken a hit and you need to recapture it. Talk to friends. Immerse yourself in something else. Find a sense of balance through the realization that your life and your significance is more than the results of an election.
  6. Begin to formulate a new plan.
    Like I said above, when you lose an election the only thing that really changes is your plans.  You don’t need to change your life, you just need to change your plan.  Start looking at your options. Now it’s time to start thinking about what’s next.
  7. Keep your campaign promises.
    I think this may be the most important thing you do. You might have originally thought you needed to be in a position of leadership in order to make a difference. But some of the best leaders I know don’t hold any type of formal position. Yet they’re very influential. Take a look back at your campaign themes and the ideas you were hoping to implement. You can still work to make those things happen. You can still influence your peers. If you were passionate enough and confident enough to run a campaign on these issues, then you are the one we still need to make these things happen. You’ll just be working at it from a different angle then you originally thought.

In the end, my hope for you is that you won’t give up. I hope this defeat is not the one that defines you. I hope that you take the words of Andre Malraux to heart and jump back in the fray…

“Often the difference between a successful person and a failure is not one has better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on one’s ideas, to take a calculated risk – and to act.”

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