You will fail. There's an uncomfortable feeling that accompanies that statement, but it's true: failure is an inevitability. In fact, most of us will fail far more often than we will succeed. Now, don't get me wrong -- this isn't a paragraph meant to depress you. Rather, it's about us being real, and accepting that failure is a regular part of life. But does that mean that it's a bad thing?
I used to have a very negative view of failure. It not only meant that I didn't succeed at whatever my goal was, but that it warranted punishment as well. This is not an uncommon sentiment, and so many of us desperately fear failure -- or even making a mistake -- because of the external (ex. boss admonishing us for a mistake) or internal (ex. hello inner critic) punishment that ends up attached to it. This aversion to disappointment and potential pain causes us to take innumerable steps to avoid failure at all costs; as we admitted above, though, we're fighting a battle we cannot win.
The irony behind all of this is that in order to truly understand success, we all must fail at some point. If we only ever succeeded, there wouldn't be the same appreciation and gratitude for the effort and action we took in order to accomplish our goal. The trickier part, though, is finding success in failure. It seems like an oxymoron, but when we understand that failure is not the end -- that it is not final -- but rather, a learning point along our path to success, we find more merit in it. Certainly, there are circumstances around which we will receive criticism for our failures; depending on the situation, those external punishments or admonishments are likely unavoidable. Again, that does not necessarily represent a bad thing.
If we internalize and create only negativity around that criticism, or perpetually defeat ourselves for failing, then we are committing a personal disservice. Instead of viewing that criticism as a pure negative, we can spin it in a way that helps us to learn. Asking about what we did or where we went wrong is a good start -- especially if the criticism is relatively blunt. Focusing on what we learned along the way to that failure is also incredibly relevant. We may not have succeeded at our intended goal, but that doesn't mean we didn't learn valuable information, skills, or abilities along the way. These are all tools we accumulate that help us grow, become better, and ultimately increase our likelihood of success in the future.
If we learn nothing from failure, then we truly have failed. However, if we choose to see failure as moments of real opportunity for growth, change, and self-improvement, then we are already succeeding.
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