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The Courage to fail

This post elaborates on the topic of failure. Failure is usually associated with feelings of negativity and sorrow. However, depending on our perception, it can be a valuable teacher. To develop that attitude it is important to understand where these feelings come from, which lays foundation to a more accepting approach, eventually leading to an appreciation of failure as a teacher.

Where does it come from?

We live in a world driven by performance and perfectionism. It begins in the very early days of our education. When we are in primary school, grades are introduced to give us a feedback on our performance. There are tests, competitions and exams. What starts out as a rather innocent comparing between the pupils, reaches the parents. They themselves have in most cases specific expectations of their children, which leads, depending on the grades, either to complements or admonitory words, causing the parents to apply a little extra pressure. After all the grades determine which secondary school and later on which university we can attend.

It is not just in school though. In sports, music, arts… whatever it is, there is in many cases very little room for actual expression, or rather it is overshadowed by the exaggerated focus on performance. We are expected to perform. Failure is simply not an option.

The willingness to be our very best is totally natural. It is an essential part of evolution. But the expectation, be it our own or the one of our peers, to excel at everything we do, puts a relentless pressure on us. Some might argue that the pressure is helpful or even needed, in many cases however it may lead to results, that are not to the best of our abilities and more so, do not meet up the set expectations.

How can we deal with failure?

There are different ways to deal with failure. Usually it may come with a reaction of disappointment or with the promise to work even harder next time. But when failure continues to happen it may lead to a bitterness and to a fear – the fear to fail again. This is a very delicate situation as it hinders us to take risks, to explore new paths – quit the job that makes us unhappy, end the relationships that do not fulfil us, or just do the things we secretly want to do.

But this is not the only way to deal with failure. We can also try to accept and understand it, see the beauty in it. We can ask ourselves questions like: Why did I fail? Why do I feel so bad about it? What is it I really want to do?

To elaborate on the question of why, many answers are possible. It might be a poor preparation. In many cases however, we feel we have prepared ourselves pretty well and yet still the results were not satisfactory. Often it is our worries, that hinder us to do the best we can. It is the fear to fail. To reduce that pressure prior to the event, one possible approach is to imagine the worst possible outcome. We may tend to dramatise the situation. Sure there will be disappointment, but we will still be the beautiful beings we are, just a bit wiser than before. Even if it means that a certain career path can not be pursued, or a relationship will not work out other doors will open, new chances will arise.

Still, why do we feel so bad about it? This can mainly be seen in the expectations we have. It is not only our own expectations, but the expectations of our peers and on a bigger level even of society itself. We feel bad about failing, because the results do not fit the image that has been created around us. It therefore questions not just our ability, but our whole personality. This can be very painful.

However it is exactly that pain, that vulnerability that allows us a deeper understanding of ourselves. We may find out that the constructs we had built around ourselves are not true. Now we could just try to cling to them, but if we apply loving acceptance, we may actually get rid of one of these false images. This is a beautiful thing as it widens our horizon, and brings us closer to our true self. It brings us closer to what it actually is we want to do. What it is that makes us happy and therefore allows peak performance very naturally and joyfully.

Seeing failure as the beautiful teacher it is

In the end failure itself is not a bad thing. If we apply a loving and accepting attitude, these situations not only provide a deeper understanding of ourselves but can give directions.

Applying that mindset the fear to fail will fade away and eventually give rise to the courage to fail. An attitude that allows you to innocently try out the things you want to do. To act without tension and pressure, but rather from a field of silence and enthusiasm, allowing you to enjoy every bit of life.

I therefore encourage you to see the beauty in failure, to accept it as the valuable learning experience it is. Let it help you to grow and guide you on your own path, leading to ever increasing happiness.