In our culture, we are often led to believe that some people are just “naturally great” when we see them achieve success. In fact, we even talk about how it all happened “overnight” for them, but this far from the truth. What we don’t see is the hard work, years of effort and learning, and the failures that they experienced along the way.
Because of this assumption that it all just unfolded effortlessly for them, we can have unrealistic expectations. We may compare ourselves to these “naturally great” people and can come to believe that if we are not naturally great at something, there is no use in even trying it. We create stories about our own abilities and we compare ourselves as beginners to someone who has put in hours of hard work to become great. We can then take on the perspective that failure is an enemy, that it is unacceptable, and that if we fail, it reflects on our worth rather than on our attempt or effort.
In school, this perspective can be reinforced. We may have experienced an environment that taught us that if we fail, we are not good enough. Grading systems teach us to attach our worth to our achievement levels and our culture doesn’t seem to see this as an issue. Through the years, we may not have had teachers who worked with us to help us find our way to learn and achieve or who encouraged us to try again after a failure. We may have even been pushed through the system, learning only negative lessons about our worth and that we are seen as a failure.
When this is the perspective of failure we are taught, it continues to impact us throughout our lives, as we are never taught how to cope with failure on any level. We may develop ways in our life to avoid failure at all costs. We carefully choose what we try, curb our own dreams, and set our sights low, all to avoid the pain and possibility of failing. Those choices can create a lifetime of depression, anxiety, numbing out, and stagnation, which disables our ability to ever grow.
So, what if we viewed failure simply as feedback? Failure can help us know what does not work and it can help us to reorient our efforts in a more effective and efficient direction. Failing means that we are taking action and it is action that moves us out of our current state. Even when we take action and fail, that action helps us to learn and to grow…if we let it.
When we believe that failure reflects on our personal worth, we get stuck in stagnation and stagnation WILL NOT move us toward our goals and dreams. Stagnation will not help us grow, but failing can. Failing helps us grow. But, we may have to shift our perspective of failing and do some work on our beliefs around what failing means to us so that we can begin to take action. If we are failing, then we have proof that we are trying; we are doing something.
This week, I invite you to fail. And I invite you to take a moment to think about your relationship to failure and what failure brings up for you. When you fail, does that failure push you to try harder? Does failing send you into a state of giving up or quitting? Does the possibilitiy of failing push you to avoid trying in the first place? Whatever pattern you recognize, do your best let go of judging it as good or bad and allow it to be feedback so that you can try taking action in a new way.
As always, I will be practicing (and failing) right along with you.
Chat again soon,