Let’s be honest, the word “failure” strikes fear in the hearts of many. Failure can dash our hopes and steal our confidence in one fell swoop – teaching us never to try that again.
But what happens when we push through initial, or even repetitive failure? Our perception can begin to change. We begin to see that failure is not rigid and unyielding, but rather flexible and moldable. Our efforts hold the potential to bring incredible victory – should we succeed. There it is. The illusion of success is falsely contingent on one delicate variable: the immediate outcome. This tends to be how we think of success and failure – as a black and white picture of winning or losing. We can be crushed beneath the pressure to succeed. So how do we learn to embrace our fear?
Failure is always a potential outcome in our efforts. It is scary to consider. But what if we could develop an entirely different perception of failure and success? Perhaps “success” is a fictional destination where we imagine we can stop learning, trying and improving – because we have all we need. And “failure” is the notion that we will never arrive there. This concept is similar to a customer who walks away from an item that is too expensive, rather than negotiating a lower price. We have a choice as to whether or not we will accept it at face value.
How Failure Helps Us
It masks itself cleverly as a villain, denying us passage. But we can train ourselves to see it for what it really is: a helper. It can assist us by:
– building resiliency and know-how.
– sharpening our skills and increasing our expertise.
– teaching us how we can succeed by showing us what won’t work.
– refining our sense of determination, fortitude and endurance.
How To Befriend Failure
1) Redefine success and failure. Consider writing your own definition of failure and success, and putting it somewhere you can view it daily. If you need some inspiration, read what others have written about the subject.
2) Allow fear to work for you. Let your fear perform only one function: to alert you of your wants. Often when we encounter fear, it may be because we have spotted a goal or a desire that is within reach. Our fear may be a reaction to a desire to stretch beyond our comfort zone. Armed with your new definition, fear can be translated into a signal meant to help you summon determination and drive.
3) Notice the bright spots. As often as possible, make a record of anything that goes well, and any positive trait you feel developing within you as a result of failure.
Lesley Anne Mendonça
M.A., LMFT-Associate, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Dr. Amy Fuller, LMFT-S, LPC-S