Failure. What do you think of when you hear the word? What do you feel?
If failure is a word (and experience) that you avoid at all costs – a word that conjures shame and self-recrimination – then you are actually hobbling yourself, depleting your energy, and putting a heavy lid on your creativity.
That’s because finding time to accept and learn from failure is a fundamental, and perhaps paradoxical, building block for your success.
This point is wonderfully articulated in a piece by Dyan Williams that I recently read on lifehacker. It’s titled “Change Your Definition of Failure: It’s How You Get Better” and it offers some excellent Do’s and Don’ts for dealing with this very human experience.
Failure Reframed …
What we call failure (and impulsively want to turn away from) can be looked at very differently – it all depends on a few key choices that we make. And those choices really do spell the difference between success and failure – but in a much deeper way.
I like to think of mistakes and so-called failures as opportunities to learn more about myself and about life. Looking squarely at ‘failure’ and accepting it – embracing it, even – opens up the treasures of information and insight that it holds.
Failure: It’s Not that It Doesn’t Hurt – But It Heals, Too!
This isn’t to deny that failure hurts. When you really try, and really fail, you really hurt. There’s no getting around that. (In fact, if you try to ‘get around it’ you lose the lessons or the treasures that failure holds.) Experiencing the pain of failure and accepting it (and yourself) in the process, reconnects you with reality. With your feet firmly on the ground, you can learn and deepen and grow – making use of your experience to move toward real success.
Denial, on the other hand, takes you away from the real world. What that means, in very practical terms, is that you are likely to make more mistakes and experience more failures down the road. The more you deny, the more you diverge from yourself and from reality.
If you think about accepting failure as a healing process, then it’s clear that NOT accepting it leave you with an open wound.
Failure and Your Relationship With Yourself
When you accept and learn from your failures, you are giving yourself a very powerful message of compassion and friendship. Think about how you relate to a child who is learning a new skill. You don’t berate that child or turn away from her when she isn’t able to tie her shoes the first time.
Instead, you gently show her, as many times as it takes, how it’s done. You encourage her and cheer her efforts, knowing that her experience of this lesson will carry over into lots of other parts of her life.
Well … it’s the same with you. Be kind to yourself, and let your failures teach you. See how you’ll blossom!
© Copyright 2013 Paula Eder, Ph.D.