This will Make you Rethink Your Idea of Failure

Photo by Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash

Some people will tell you there is no such thing as ‘failure’: they are wrong.

Failure is a very real thing, especially for those who experience it and those who are held back by a fear of it. It is our understanding of failure, what it is and what it does to people, which is wrong.

Making a mistake is not failure

Making a mistake is not failure, making the wrong choice or the wrong decision is not failure, not understanding the correct answer is not failure.

Failure is an emotion, failure is a state of mind; it is how you feel about yourself. Often it is how you feel about yourself following decisions you’ve made or how you feel about yourself when faced with a question or decision.

Learn from your mistakes (and other platitudes)

Understanding failure is important when faced with people coming at you with platitudes such as ‘learning from your mistakes’ or ‘learning from failure’ or even just ‘pick yourself up and try again.’ Such people may never have experienced failure; they may have made mistakes, they may have gotten things wrong, they may even have failed, but they may never have experienced that ‘failure’ feeling, emotion, or state of mind.

To say that making a mistake is the same as failure, trivialises failure. When you experience failure, it is not the things, the decisions or the errors you made, which constitute the failure, it is you who are the failure. Failure is about you not the things you do.

This is why failure is so powerful and why the fear of failure can hold people back. Failure is about you and not about your decisions. It is a feeling which nobody likes. So it is hardly surprising that people fear and seek to avoid it.

It is Wrong not You are Wrong

If a child gives a wrong answer, we will often tell them that they are wrong. Yet they are not wrong, it is their answer which is wrong. If an adult makes the wrong decision, we tell them that they were wrong even though it was the decision not they which was wrong. When you see this, or even worse, when you experience this, it is easy to understand how failure becomes a personal feeling or mental state.

If you made a mistake, that may be easy to overcome. If you feel a failure, that is difficult to overcome. The importance is to differentiate between a failing and failure.