People can make their successes look simple and painless by showcasing them without the context of the failures that accompanied them. We crave the thrill of success and avoid the pain of acknowledging failure like the plague, even though we fail on numerous occasions. Embarrassment, fear, and insecurity drive us to hide failure, keeping it as quiet as possible.
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You define success or failure in terms of your goals. Success is the accomplishment of your goals as you define them. Missing your goals is called failure.
Without clear goals, the definition of success and failure is fuzzy, leaving you without a clear sense of just how much you succeeded or failed. This lack of definition can lead to a haphazard experience with an empty, unfulfilling end. Without goals, you may allow circumstances to push you where they will, and you wonder in the end how you got there. You need definite goals.
Once you’ve defined the destination, it’s all about the journey. The journey includes repeated successes and failures at intermediate goals, which move you toward the bigger goal.
Incomplete pictures of reality intensify the emotional experiences of success and failure. The embarrassment and disappointment of failure at the moment seem great when not seen in the context of a whole. For example, losing one game is more painful if we don’t see how it can contribute to a winning season. One failure in life does not define life. And, as mentioned earlier, showcasing success without the failures that made them possible makes achievement look falsely easy and painless.
Unfortunately, the fear of embarrassment of failure can leave you frozen in inactivity. You can get stuck in your head hoping for a complete and perfect plan without failure. But you can’t know the next step toward the goal without the success or failure of the previous step. If you stay frozen in inactivity, you deny yourself the opportunity to fail and, in the process, deny yourself the opportunity or delay the opportunity to succeed.
So, let’s adjust our thinking about success and failure. Both success and failure are important, essential, and inextricably connected as learning opportunities leading to growth and achievement in life. You need both. As you strive toward a goal, you can only achieve success with failure as a part of your teaching team. Success tells you what moves you to the destination, and failure tells you what doesn’t.
Try acknowledging the fear, taking courage, getting into action, and embracing failure when it comes. Treat the failure as one more positive step forward. It’s the only way you will learn how to reach that big goal, the ultimate destination you set.
Thomas A. Edison, one of the most prolific inventors in history, is reputed to have said:
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”