“Every failure brings with it the seed of an equivalent success”
– Napolean Hill
Before attempting a challenging task, do you ever weigh the outcomes and play out your worst-case scenarios?
Whether cooking a new recipe for a group of friends, taking the stage for a speaking engagement, or running a race, I’ll bet that go-to stress-inducing thought is, “What if I fail?”
And maybe the possibility of that awful, mortifying outcome of failure has kept you hostage in an empty life where your dreams seem unattainable.
My fear of failure and what I believed it meant kept me completely paralyzed for a long time. It kept me from moving forward, and instead, caused me to remain in my marriage for much longer than I should have.
I believed that leaving would make me a failure, and having a failed marriage would make me inadequate.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about how I define failure and what a negative connotation the word has. Would we be more willing to embrace failure and move through it faster if it had a more positive meaning?
There was a time in all of our lives when failing wasn’t failing – it was considered a learning process.
Every single one of us came into this world experiencing failure over and over again. Failure has led us to where we are today.
As infants, we couldn’t roll over the first time we tried, or sit up on our own. We had to fall over numerous times before we learned what we needed to be successful at sitting up.
Babies ‘fail’ all the time – although that isn’t the language we use for them. We call it ‘learning’, not failing. We understand that what they’re doing is learning a new skill.
The desire to sit up on our own propels us forward, keeps us trying, failing, and trying again, and the repetition develops the skill.
For babies, there’s no moment of thinking, “I quit, I can’t sit up – I guess I’m meant to only lie down!”
And it’s the same with learning to crawl, and stand and walk. We fall dozens of times as we are learning. Falling down is a valuable part of the process, because we discover what we need to do differently in order to get better at standing up.
Once we find our balance, the same thing happens when we want to step forward. We fall again – not fail again – just fall.
It’s the fall that teaches us everything we need to know about standing and balancing. And slowly, we learn how to lift one foot in front of the other and move forward.
I’ve decided to reframe my definition of failure. Failing is never failure – it’s the opportunity to learn what we need to do next to succeed.