As a child you probably learned failing is bad...
Failing meant being punished, whether it is being kept in for "remedial work" after school or having to repeat a year. Failing meant getting a dressing down from your parents, and some form of restriction on your activities until you ‘knuckle down and start to get good grades’. So, a vital part of your learning tool kit was taken away from you.
What do I mean? Well, those people who learn most are the people for whom failing is okay.
All that failing does is show up those areas you have yet to master a particular skill, activity or subject. Full Stop.
On the other hand, all that achieving something does is show you have mastered this particular topic and you are ready to move on.
Chances are, you have watched a very young child learning to walk.
From checking out all these big people, our little one realises there are whole range of benefits from being able to walk upright, rather than crawling everywhere.
So she decides to try it out for herself.
She pulls herself upright on the coffee table and with a great amount of uncertainty puts one little chubby foot out and starts to transfer the weight from the back foot onto the front one.
But its very hard to balance on such a small area, particularly when the muscle tone isn't great, and she topples over and lands flat on her face.
Ouch! That hurt.
So after Mommy or Daddy have given her a cuddle and kissed it all better, she gets left to herself again.
What happens next? Well I’ll tell you what doesn’t happen.
Our little one does not crawl across into the corner and hang her head in shame, thinking "I blew it. I'm a failure. I'll never be able to walk" No. She hasn't learned that trick yet.
What happens is she tries it again, adjusting for the problem that happened last time.
So she pulls herself up on the coffee table again and this time over corrects and, boom, flat on her bottom. That's okay, well padded, didn't hurt. And she learns that if she is going to fall, its better to come down on her rear end than on her face.
So she tries it again, and again, and again until in a very short period of time she has mastered a very complex combination of balance and motion we call walking.
And she was able to do it because it was okay to fail.
She took her failures and her successes to achieve what she wanted. Fantastic.
But as she grows and becomes socialised, and learns that failing is bad, she becomes fearful of not making the grade first time every time. So she gives up trying new things. And irrational fear takes hold.
Now fear can be a good thing. Fear keeps us from venturing into situations that may be harmful for us. But it becomes bad when it stops us from achieving things in our lives we would otherwise be quite capable of doing.
Fear of failure is a classic blocking mechanism that stops us from living a fulfilled life.
Fear of rejection is another.
Fear of the unknown.
Even fear of success.
Fear of success? Yes, there are people who are afraid to become successful because they might not be able to handle it. They are afraid they will lose all their friends, that they won't know how to cope with all the decisions they will have to make, all the extra responsibility they will have. These people still see success as an end result, rather than a journey
And what happens if you do fail?
Is the world going to come crashing down around your ears?
Of course not.
Are you going to die?
In fact, failing simply tells you those areas where you have more opportunities to grow.
And if you learn anything from the experience, how could you consider it a failure?
Thomas Edison, the inventor to whom we are indebted for inventions such as the light globe and the phonograph was once asked how he coped with all his failures (he was unsuccessful in about 90% of the things he did) Edison's answer was quite profound. He said
"I have never failed. I have successfully learned what does not work!"
Make your standard for being successful very easy to achieve, you would also do well to make your standard for failure extremely difficult.
For me, failure is completely giving up on absolutely everything. Not even bothering to get out of bed. In essence, to stop living, without actually dying. To lose all interest in and contact with others and give up. Until I reach that point, and I never plan to get to that stage in my life, I do not consider myself a failure, Despite the disappointments, despite the "successful lessons in learning what does not work", despite the things that have gone badly, I continue to be successful.
And here’s a closing though to ponder: you can't be a successful failure, because if you’re good at failing at least you are successful at something!