What does ‘failing’ at something mean to you?
Why does that word seem to scare us all so much? What are we afraid of exactly?
In general it seems that it’s a deeper fear that sits heavily on us when we think about it’s meaning, with many people making the following link:
I failed at something = I am a failure
Is this really true?
If your friend came to you and said that something they’d been working on didn’t go how they had hoped/ hadn’t worked out at all, would you therefore look at them and judge that they as an entire human being are a failure?
If you answered ‘no’ to that question regarding what you would tell someone else, why are you not offering that pearl of wisdom to yourself?
The meaning we personally attach to certain words is wrapped up in our upbringing, education, experiences and our beliefs, and these can have positive or negative connotations, and frequently influence and determine our next steps moving forward. However, as mentioned in my previous post Challenge Your Limiting Beliefs, when these are associated with holding you back and preventing you from moving forward in living your life how you want then this can be an indication of how you have internalised these into limiting beliefs on what you can achieve.
As such, the following might be phrases, thoughts and feelings that you currently say to yourself when you fail at attempting/doing something:
- I’m a failure
- I’ve always been a failure
- I’m embarrassed
- What will people say when they know I’ve failed at this?
- People will probably laugh at me and talk about how I failed
- I’m not good enough
- I’m not going to try anything like this again
- I should just stick to what I know
- I don’t know if I can handle it if I try again and it doesn’t work out
- I feel like I’m never good enough
- This just isn’t for me, it clearly wasn’t meant to be
Even if only one of these above phrases runs through your mind, if later down the line in life someone asks ‘did you ever complete that project/idea you were working on?’ it’s more than likely your reply will be a ‘no’ rather than a ‘yes’.
First Attempt In Learning
So lets take the word ‘fail’ and reframe it.
This is a hugely important action to take because reframing what a word or phrase stands for means you can then more effectively reframe the effect it has on you and how you choose to respond.
Let’s now look at the mindset and power you can harness within yourself if you decide to reframe the word in a positive light and turn it into an affirming phrase which stands for ‘First Attempt In Learning’. Subsequently, by doing this you’ll probably be much more likely to think and say some of the following phrases;
- This was only an attempt, and I’ve learnt something valuable that I can apply moving forward
- Learning is part of the process, it has to have problems so I can fix them in order to make the best version of what I’m doing.
- Well if I hadn’t made that mistake then when I did, I wouldn’t have learnt what I needed to know in order to try again, and I wouldn’t have been successful in reaching where I am now!
- I’m learning more from getting it wrong than getting it right, how can that be a bad thing?
- I’m resilient and have the ability to adapt and change
- I’m persistent and determined to keep going to get it right
What do you notice about these phrases compared to the list in the previous paragraph?
You’ve suddenly altered how you have perceived and reacted to the word based on looking at ‘failing’ through a positive lens and acknowledging the benefits it can bring you.
One fantastic example of this in practise is the author JK Rowling.
The first Harry Potter novel she wrote was rejected by twelve separate publishers before it was actually taken on. Twleve times! One even provided her with feedback advising she take a writing course.
JK Rowling could have easily interpetted these rejections as meaning she had failed at attempting to get her book published. If she’d taken even just one of those rejections at face value, and instead of learning from each of them to build her resilience and to keep trying she decided to accept it wasn’t going to get published, where would she be now? We’ll never know that answer, although we could make a pretty good guess she wouldn’t be such a revered world renowned author with a net worth of $650 million, as that has all predominantly stemmed from the success of the Harry Potter books.
What can be said with absolute certainty is that for the rest of the world it would have meant:
- No Harry Potter books
- No Harry Potter films
- No Warner Bro’s Studio Tours
- No Platform 9 3/4 to take your photo with a Kings Cross
- No Quidditch World Cup (yes, apparently thats an actual thing in real life)
- Also, think of the knock on effects to others – for example the careers of those like Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson – would they be on stage and in big screen films now if they hadn’t started out on the Harry Potter film sets?
(If you don’t like any of the Harry Potter books or films then maybe all of the above not
happening would be a good thing! However, for the point I’m trying to illustrate if you could do me a favour and for a couple of minutes just try to pretend that you would love to have a Nimbus 2000 broomstick and a magic wand that would be great).
Why Am I Sharing This With You?
There is a positive that can be found in what appears to be a negative situation where you haven’t acheived what you wanted – you just have to take the time to find it and reframe it so that it spurs you on instead of letting it knock you down.
So even if you’re in the situation where you have to go back to the drawing board and start all over again, remember that you’re not ‘right back where you started at the very beginning’ because this time around you’re bringing new found knowledge from lessons you learnt the first/second/third/fourth/fifth, or even twelfth time you tried.
If it helps, look to those people who have achieved what they set out to do, and use them for inspiration. Normally those who have gone on to massive accomplishments have most likely ‘failed’ the hardest, and fallen multiple times.
The important part to remember is that they got back up and kept going.
So choose to look for the positive in the negative, and choose to find the most productive way to react so you can move forward with your plans.
You haven’t failed.
You’ve learnt something valuable.
So take it, apply it, and keep working towards your goals.
Have a great weekend,