The Meaning of Failure
By Dr. Annette Colby, RD
Failure is one of those life experiences most of us would rather not
encounter. Generally we tend to connect failure with intense
self-judgement and inner criticism. The fear of failure is so strong, we
often become hesitant to focus on inner dreams because of past failures.
We would rather not fail again. It’s easier to say, “Oh well, I tried”
then to view failure as what it really is: an expected component in the
process of change. Failures are so difficult because they trigger and
initially reinforce limiting beliefs that we already hold about ourselves.
Beliefs which may include:
I’m not good enough to have what I want (unlovable, undeserving,
unworthy). Related life issue of love.
I can’t have what I want (different, an outsider, alone, nothing, should
not be on earth at all). Related life issue of belonging and acceptance.
I’m not good enough. I am basically a bad person, and this is the reason
for my failure (defective, flawed, imperfect, bad, fat, guilty, imperfect,
failure). Related life issue of esteem.
I’m powerless to effect change (hopeless, useless, defeated). Related life
issue of survival, self, empowerment, perseverance.
My needs and desires will not ever be met (vulnerable, helpless, afraid).
Related life issue of security.
Failure in itself isn’t so bad; it’s the belief that gets triggered along
with the associated uncomfortable emotions that we wish to avoid. It’s
often painful to face a belief rising to the surface that suggests we are
unworthy or unacceptable. Somewhere in our lifetimes, the word failure
became synonymous with the word “loser.” There’s often great embarrassment
and even shame for grownups to have this experience of failure. Yet as
children we repeatedly allowed ourselves to fail. Without failure none of
us would have learned how to walk, talk, write, or even ride a bicycle. As
adults, we shy away from new experiences to avoid risking failure.
Truth about Failure
“Knowledge rests not upon truth alone, but upon error also.” – Carl Jung,
1875-1961, Swiss Psychiatrist
Failure is not bad. Actually, it’s probably the only way to become
successful. The obstacles, setbacks and stumbling blocks are an
anticipated aspect of any journey. Failure is really just feedback telling
us to adjust the plan or to try a new approach. It is essential to
success. While it’s certainly a giant leap to welcome failure with open
arms, perhaps we can begin with acceptance that failure is a natural
aspect of every ultimately successful journey.
The only true failure is when we concede defeat and absolutely give up.
Failure is when we beat ourselves up and learn nothing from our setbacks.
Confucius is quoted as saying, “Our greatest glory is not in nevër falling
but in rising every time we fall.” If we embrace our failures along with
our successes, learning from each, we will grow and achieve. The only
people who do not fail are those who fail to try.
A little known formula for success is that success happens because of
failure. Legend has it that Thomas Edison attempted 10,000 different
filaments before successfully creating the electric light bulb. When asked
if he ever felt discouraged with so many failures, he answered none of his
attempts were failures. They were each successful experiments in finding
what didn't work!
Henry Ford went bankrupt 3 times before he created a car that worked.
Colonel Sanders was 65 years old when he tried to sell his chicken recipe.
He took this recipe to over 1,000 restaurants before he found a buyer.
Walt Disney spoke with over 297 banks before he was able to attain a loan
for his successful dream.
The National Weïght Control Registry is a research study established in
1994 that seeks to gather information from people who have successfully
lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least one year. They
investigate long-term successful body weïght-loss maintenance. They report
that everyone who successfully loses and maintains this loss has tried to
achieve success before. Part of their success was what they had learned
from past failures.
The Lesson of Failure
What’s the lesson in this? Successful people fail more often than
unsuccessful people. In fact, they fail over and over and over again. It’s
the failures themselves that provide learning experiences. Wisdom and
enlightenment to succeed come from failure. Successful people don’t give
up because they’ve failed. Instead they sit back and view these
experiences as learning opportunities.
As we go about the process of achieving a goal or dream, we will run into
all sorts of obstacles, limitations and setbacks. Why? Because we don’t
know how to do whatever it is we are trying to do. On top of that, we
don’t believe we can actually have what is wanted. Encountering obstacles,
even a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, doesn’t prove we can’t have what
is wanted. We’ve simply reached the edge of a boundary. Not knowing how to
do something can threaten self-esteem and confidence. This is where
expansion of the spirit is possible. What do we tell ourselves when we
find ourselves facing a failure? This is the point where we teach
ourselves new leadership skills of converting threats into opportunities.
We can learn how to allow support from above and below. Admitting we don’t
know the next step (but we’ll know soon) demonstrates faith in ourselves
and faith in being supported.
To be successful, we need to design an alternative paradigm for failure.
In other words, redefine failure in a manner allowing ourselves to see
whatever happens not as failure, but as “information.” From there, it
becomes possible to gather and access this new information and include it
in a revised plan. During the momentary failure, we must be able to recall
the excitement of the long-term big picture vision while intentionally
choosing to listen to the supportive inner voices. Then we can stand
strong once again in our original desire and dream, while determining how
to best adjust the plan and the next action step.
Failure can be used as another tool on the continuous journey to a deeper
appreciation of self and love for self. We have choices: Failure can be
utilized either as a way to close our heart down even more to ourselves
and others, or the experience can be a stepping stone to opening our heart
even further. We can view failure as evidence of our inherent internal
flaws as a human being. Or we can look to find the emotional and spiritual
lessons embedded within the failure. To be human is to experience failure.
Nothing is, or ever was, wrong with who we are.
Failure can guide us toward a leap of faith. We are capable, ultimately,
of overcoming any obstacle, any problem or any situation connected with
our dream. Why else would we have a particular dream unless it was ours to
manifest? From within we can find the courage to walk toward what we
really want in life. We can learn to encourage and support ourselves
through the good times and especially the bad times. Love that you are
overcoming fear and attempting something new -- no matter what the
outcome. Of course there will be failures along the way. An entire new set
of skills is being learned. When an occasional failure is experienced --
get up, dust yourself off, access the new information, believe in yourself
and begin again.
About the Author:
Helping people let go of self-destructive thoughts, emotions and behaviors
has been the life work of Dr. Annette Colby. Her fascination with the
power of the mind, emotions, spirituality and physicality has led her to
become a leader in the field of personal growth and consciousness. She is
a valued counselor and an inspiring teacher, as well as an independent
writer, mentor and guide. She is a highly sought-after trainer with a
unique ability to inform and inspire individuals to open their hearts,
love more openly and pursue their dreams.
Dr. Annette Colby, RD Nutrition Therapist & Master Energy Therapist.
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