May 24, 2013 0
It’s one of those words that holds a lot of weight. For some people, just reading the word on this screen can cause a severe plunge in their mood for the day. They associate it with deep, harsh feelings that overwhelm them and cause them to stoop into depression. It’s a reflection of something that they feel has gone horribly wrong in life; something that causes them to feel less-than-perfect.
For others, the word is a little more colloquial. It’s the word that they use when they break a glass, stub their toe, or forget their wallet at home. It’s one of those #fail moments. It’s a reminder that they’re human, but not too much of a hindrance on their mental or physical state.
For me, when I see the word, a mishmash of images and scenarios flash through my mind where I was less-than-perfect, but at the same time it causes me to pause and reflect, thinking, “does failure even exist?”
That’s the question I’ve been wrestling with lately. Does failure exist? Is there really and truly such a thing as “failure”?
I suppose it depends on where you come from, who your family is, what sort of belief system you adhere to, etc., as to how you view such a question. But regardless of all that “stuff” that makes up who I am, I’m just not convinced that there is such a thing as “failure.”
When you read the definition in a dictionary, “failure” is defined as: lack of success, nonfulfillment, defeat, collapse, loser, underachiever, disappointment, write-off, inadequacy, insufficiency, deficiency, malfunction.
Imagine with me for a moment: think of a time that you consider to be a “failure.” It doesn’t matter whether it was a big moment or something small; just think of it. How does it make you feel when you think of that moment in time? Is it a moment where you personally labelled it or you as a “failure?” Or did someone else tell you that you were a loser? A write-off? A disappointment?
I think much of what we project into the feeling of “failure” is the words and feelings told to us by someone else. Sometimes they are verbally said: “You’re such a disappointment!” Or sometimes they’re just felt: “I’m pretty sure my mother has written me off.”
In most situations where I could even possibly consider the feeling of “failure,” it is often associated with words someone has said to me, feelings that someone else non-verbally expressed, and as a result I’m left with this feeling of failure, even though it wasn’t me who “named” it.
I’m hesitant to believe that failure really and truly exists, because it implies that nothing good has come or will come from the situation. That nothing was learned from the situation. But I simply don’t believe that’s true.
Don’t get me wrong – there are some awful situations that people go through where they stop and think, “there is absolutely nothing good about this.” I’m not talking about straight-up bad stuff that happens; I’m talking about instances where we feel that we completely screwed up. But do me a favour – think back to that “failure” moment that you were thinking of earlier. Is it you that defined yourself as a failure? Or was it someone else? Can you see anything good about it? Even if it’s minuscule? Is there anything that you learned about yourself or the situation you’re in that can change you for the better?
I think if we are honest and true, and we take the time to dig deep into each situation that we’ve felt like a failure, we can find something that is positive. It might only be one thing. It might take weeks, even months, to figure out what that one thing is. But it’s there. And because of that one thing, I’m convinced that these challenging moments where we’re less-than-perfect, are not failures. In fact, they’re successes.
That moment when you failed a course in university? It taught you that you might not be invincible, but through that make-up course you had to take, you worked hard, discovered that you had even more determination in you than you thought was possible. That’s a success.
That broken relationship that ended on a very low note? It taught you your strengths and weaknesses; how you relate to people that you care for; how to grow as an individual and get back out there and love those around you. That’s a success.
That job that you were fired from? It taught you how to have responsibility, how to manage your time, how to interact with others, how to invest your money. It doesn’t matter if you were fired because of cut-backs or for being completely lazy. You learned these things, and because of that, it was a success.
Without trivializing the topic too much, I think if we start considering less-than-perfect situations to be more of a glass half-full than a glass half-empty, we’ll see that “failure” isn’t as full of sting as we once thought it was.
Life is what we make of it, and if we think that everything that doesn’t turn out perfectly is a “failure,” then we’re cutting ourselves off from some of the best and most profound lessons that we could ever learn. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, and not accomplished things I’d wanted to accomplish; but that doesn’t make me a failure. It makes me human, and it makes me conscious of how to live my life better with each step that I take from here on out.
What does “failure” mean to you?