Learning to Fail Better

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness. 
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Many of us identify as “perfectionists”, we hold ourselves to a very rigidly high standard. Or can it be that failing sucks and it sucks even more when we identify failing with ourselves being a failure?

Remember when we were first learning to walk? It’s like our failures were celebrated!

But as we get older, it ends up becoming more about expectations and less acknowledgement and recognition.  And if we happen to be high-striving individuals, we can be particularly hard on ourselves.

We can also be very black and white about our ideas about success and failure, and my hope is that if we can think about these things differently, we wouldn’t equate things not working out to failing as individuals.

For some of us, so much so, that we can become risk adverse. In which case, two things can typically happen:

  1. We dedicate a disproportionate amount of energy to make things NOT fail versus taking calculated risks to move forward or innovate.
  2. We find ourselves stuck, particularly in our day to day lives, doing the same things and not rushing the discomfort of challenging change.

In our culture and society, there is so much emphasis on success and stories of success, but we rarely celebrate the journey it takes to get to a point of success, and only point to that journey, once some level of success has been accomplished.

But we don’t often talk about or highlight the struggles in a positive or even neutral light.

Yes, it doesn’t feel good to be in a place of struggle, but we, as a culture, have a tendency to shame individuals in their struggles, as opposed to accepting that it’s actually a part of the process of learning and growing.

Some things to know about failure:

  1. We all fail or don’t always succeed or things don’t always go “right” with one go. (Sometimes supposed mistakes, end up being even more “successful” than what was originally intended: eg – Penicillin, Post-It Notes & Apple)
  2. Objectively speaking: There’s nothing specifically bad about failing or something not working out. How we feel about it or what sense we make of it is based on the often unconscious narrative we create about a situation and ourselves, the subjective opinions of others often don’t help either.
  3. Failure is actually part of the process.  Look back on the process of learning how to walk, there were so many things to figure out: our brain learning to make the connection of balance and movement, to our physiology creating the muscle memory in order to make walking second nature, there was a process to get to the eventual place of “success”.
  4. Just because something fails, it does not correspond to who you are as a person.  In other words, just because you fail, it doesn’t make you a failure.

And remember: The GOATS always talk about the importance of failing.
“I missed over 9000 shots in my career.” – Michael Jordan

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