You’ve Never Really Failed
In this life, you’ve never actually failed. I’d say instead you’ve been lied to, just like the rest of us. Our less-than-perfect outcomes have been falsely labeled as “failures” and it’s changed how we think about who we are and what we’re capable of doing. It’s changed our willingness to risk and take chances. Our fear of failing may even cause us to live in the “safe zone.”
Believe me. It probably happened the first time someone said, “You can’t win them all.” or “Failure’s not so bad. You can always try again.” or “There’s only one winner.” They may have told you that it’s okay to fail, but even then, as children, we knew that somehow that wasn’t exactly true. We could see it in their eyes and hear it in their consoling voices.
We grow up believing that failure is bad and wrong, something to be avoided at all costs.
Failure, what we consider the opposite of success, has its roots in a social order based on winners and losers. You’re either one or the other and if you grew up like most of us, there was usually one winner and all the rest of us were, well, FAILURES!
And of all the things that have the power to stop us dead in our tracks, failure rates at the very top of the scale. If you believe you’ve failed at something in the past, relationship, career, creative endeavors, etc., the chances of you trying again are diminished significantly.
And who can blame you?
The label, FAILURE, hurts. It’s discouraging and depressing. And that’s because we believe it holds the power to define us. But in reality, the word failure is a concept, not a truth. Allowing the idea of failure, an idea that can be challenged as easily as the definition of beauty, stop you from going after your wildest dreams is ridiculous. Because the truth is you have never really failed and neither have I.
Let me explain.
Failure is a one-way street with a dead end. And that’s not the kind of journey most of us are on. On the contrary, our lives are blessed with infinite directions and unlimited options. With every turn in the road, new vistas open up before us. With every step we take, every decision we make, we discover new things about ourselves and about others.
It’s true we don’t always like what we encounter and we don’t always get what we want, but those results don’t have to be considered failures. They can just as easily be considered opportunities.
In facing an unwanted or unexpected outcome, sometimes we realize that we need different people in our lives or to try a new direction. Sometimes our experience helps us grow in ways we never would have without pain and frustration. Our perspective expands because of the things we encounter and the people we meet. We become resilient as a result. We learn about compassion, understanding, and empathy from wearing shoes that don’t exactly fit.
And sometimes we can’t make sense of our experience and then the only thing we can do is hold on to the idea that often we have to go places and do things to lead us through and more completely into a life that we had to earn with time and with experience, with emotional expenses. Almost always our purpose emerges from life experiences that challenge us in this way.
My advice going forward:
Try not to be afraid of where you’re going next or the possibility of things “not working out.” You’ve never really failed. All this time you’ve been learning and discovering who you are and why you’re here. All the things that didn’t work out, the times when you thought you’d failed, were just part of a series of life experiments leading to where you are today.
Try not to compare your experience here with others. None of us can determine the “right way” by watching another. We’re all here with unique offerings to the lifestream at this point in history. We don’t succeed at the expense of others’ failings nor do we fail when others succeed. We’re not meant to have the same experiences. We’re meant to live bravely our own unique story.
Try not to believe what they say about failure. Make a new definition for the ideas of “wrong choices” or “bad decisions.” There are no such things. We choose, we learn, we grow, we become more and more of who we are supposed to be. Don’t regret the learning, no matter how painful the process. It’s produced something more valuable than you can ever imagine within you and you’re going to need that along the way.
Try not to “overcome” your failure. Take the opportunity to mine the experience for information. When we overcome something we try to avoid it, forget about it, brush it under the rug. But life experiences that don’t go our way have a lot to teach us. Take the time to examine where you are, how you got there and where you want to go next. Take the valuable lessons to heart and let them transform you. Don’t waste the experience wishing it away.
Try not to let circumstances that surprise you stop you for long. We all have tough times and that can make us want to sit still and exercise caution. When life throws you for a loop, I know it’s easy to want to blame yourself for failing or doing it all wrong. Go ahead and have your pity party for a while, but don’t let your inner critic take the reins. You know better. You’ve never failed. This game’s not over until you’re lying in the grave. Take what there is to learn from rough patches and get back up on the horse again. You’ve got more roads to travel and a lifetime of loving and learning ahead of you, so Giddy up!