Failure is one of those life experiences most of us would rather not encounter. Generally we tend to connect failure with intense self-judgement and inner criticism. The fear of failure is so strong, we often become hesitant to focus on inner dreams because of past failures. We would rather not fail again. It’s easier to say, “Oh well, I tried.” then to view failure as what it really is: an expected component in the process of change. Failures are so difficult because they trigger and initially reinforce limiting beliefs that we already hold about ourselves. Beliefs which may include:
I’m not good enough to have what I want. (unlovable, undeserving, unworthy) Related life issue of love.
I’m can’t have what I want (different, an outsider, alone, nothing, should not be on earth at all). Related life issue of belonging and acceptance.
I’m not good enough. I am basically a bad person and this is the reason for my failure. (defective, flawed, imperfect, bad, fat, guilty, imperfect, failure) Related life issue of esteem.
I’m powerless to effect change. (hopeless, useless, defeated) Related life issue of survival, self, empowerment, perseverance.
My needs and desires will not ever be met. (vulnerable, helpless, afraid) Related life issue of security.
Failure in itself isn’t so bad, it’s the belief that gets triggered along with the associated uncomfortable emotions that we wish to avoid. It’s often painful to face a belief rising to the surface that suggests we are unworthy or unacceptable. Somewhere in our lifetimes, the word failure became synonymous with the word “loser.” There’s often great embarrassment and even shame for grownups to have this experience of failure. Yet as children we repeatedly allowed ourselves to fail. Without failure none of us would have learned how to walk, talk, write, or even ride a bicycle. As adults, we shy away from new experiences to avoid risking failure.
Truth about Failure
“Knowledge rests not upon truth alone, but upon error also.” Carl Jung (1875-1961 Swiss Psychiatrist)
Failure is not bad. Actually, it’s probably the only way to become successful. The obstacles, setbacks, and stumbling blocks are an anticipated aspect of any journey. Failure is really just feedback telling us to adjust the plan or to try a new approach. It is essential to success. While it’s certainly a giant leap to welcome failure with open arms, perhaps we can begin with acceptance that failure is a natural aspect of every ultimately successful journey.
The only true failure is when we concede defeat and absolutely give up. Failure is when we beat ourselves up and learn nothing from our setbacks. Confucius is quoted as saying, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” If we embrace our failures along with our successes, learning from each, we will grow and achieve. The only people who do not fail are those who fail to try.
A little known formula for success is that success happens because of failure. Legend has it that Thomas Edison attempted 10,000 different filaments before successfully creating the electric light bulb. When asked if he ever felt discouraged with so many failures, he answered none of his attempts were failures. They were each successful experiments in finding what didn't work!
Henry Ford went bankrupt 3 times before he created a car that worked. Colonel Sanders was 65 years old when he tried to sell his chicken recipe. He took this recipe to over 1000 restaurants before he found a buyer. Walt Disney spoke with over 297 banks before he was able to attain a loan for his successful dream.
The National Weight Control Registry is a research study established in 1994 that seeks to gather information from people who have successfully lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least one year. They investigate long-term successful body weight-loss maintenance. They report that everyone who successfully loses and maintains this loss has tried to achieve success before. Part of their success was what they had learned from past failures.
The Lesson of Failure What’s the lesson in this? Successful people fail more often than unsuccessful people. In fact, they fail over and over and over again. It’s the failure’s themselves that provide learning experiences. Wisdom and enlightenment to succeed come from failure. Successful people don’t give up because they’ve failed. Instead they sit back and view these experiences as learning opportunities.
As we go about the process of achieving a goal or dream, we will run into all sorts of obstacles, limitations and setbacks. Why? Because we don’t know how to do whatever it is we are trying to do. On top of that, we don’t believe we can actually have what is wanted. Encountering obstacles, even a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, doesn’t prove we can’t have what is wanted. We’ve simply reached the edge of a boundary. Not knowing how to do something can threaten self-esteem and confidence. This is where expansion of the spirit is possible. What do we tell ourselves when find ourselves facing a failure? This is the point where we teach ourselves new leadership skills of converting threats into opportunities. We can learn how to allow support from above and below. Admitting we don’t know the next step (but we’ll know soon) demonstrates faith in ourselves and faith in being supported.
To be successful, we need to design an alternative paradigm for failure. In other words, redefine failure in a manner allowing ourselves to see whatever happens not as failure, but as “information.” From there, it becomes possible to gather and access this new information and include it in a revised plan. During the momentary failure, we must be able to recall the excitement of the long-term big picture vision while intentionally choosing to listen to the supportive inner voices. Then we can stand strong once again in our original desire and dream, while determining how to best adjust the plan and the next action step.
Failure can be used as another tool on the continuous journey to a deeper appreciation of self and love for self. We have choices: Failure can be utilized either as a way to close our heart down even more to ourselves and others, or the experience can be a stepping stone to opening our heart even further. We can view failure as evidence of our inherent internal flaws as a human being. Or we can look to find the emotional and spiritual lessons embedded within the failure. To be human is to experience failure. Nothing is, or ever was, wrong with who we are.
Failure can guide us toward a leap of faith. We are capable, ultimately, of overcoming any obstacle, any problem or any situation connected with our dream. Why else would we have a particular dream unless it was ours to manifest? From within we can find the courage to walk toward what we really want in life. We can learn to encourage and support ourselves through the good times and especially the bad times. Love that you are overcoming fear and attempting something new -- no matter what the outcome. Of course there will be failures along the way. An entire new set of skills is being learned. When an occasional failure is experienced — get up, dust yourself off, access the new information, believe in yourself, and begin again.
Helping people let go of self-destructive thoughts, emotions, and behaviors has been the life work of Dr. Annette Colby. Her fascination with the power of the mind, emotions, spirituality, and physicality has led her to become a leader in the field of personal growth and consciousness. She is a valued counselor, and an inspiring teacher, as well as an independent writer, mentor, and guide. She is a highly sought-after trainer with a unique ability to inform and inspire individuals to open their hearts, love more openly, and pursue their dreams.
Dr. Annette Colby, RD Nutrition Therapist & Master Energy Therapist
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