I am no stranger to failure. We have a long, sorted history, failure and me. While I have succeeded much in life, the universe always sees fit to knock me down a peg or two. It keeps me humble. Ultimately, the “powers that be” know what they are doing. My ego does tend to be insufferable at times.
Regardless of what I have learned through my falls many from grace, keeping focused on what’s important remains a challenge. Nine great things can happen to me, but one negative event can tank it all. Despite this knowledge, I can easily slip into a head-space of gloom and doom without a second thought.
I do try to do a personal inventory, daily. The negative things in my life are never far from my consciousness: they have reserved, front-row seats for the show that is my life. I do have to remind myself, often, of what I do have and the good that surrounds me. Life really does seem fuller that way.
Failure is more than that, though. It is, perhaps, the best teacher, life-coach, and guide we will ever have. Without it, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Frankly, I shudder to think who I would have become if I hadn’t fallen along the way…a lot.
Failure as “teacher”
As I have gotten older, a great deal of my focus has been on wisdom—that which I have and that which I have yet to acquire. While many of my life-lessons have taught me how to do things or be certain ways, the moments when I realize how not to do things seem to mean the most. True, I could beat myself up over not succeeding at passing an exam or getting a story published, but fully understanding the reasons why I was not able to do pull something off offers more than just a fleeting sense of accomplishment.
Success just tells us how to do something well. Failure teaches us about our limitations and those imposed by the world around us. As a result, what we learn from that process is how to navigate our way through this life, utilizing our strengths and guile, to ultimately get the job done. This is wisdom. Carrying that forward, we approach life, differently, with more confidence and a grander sense of knowing.
Failure as “life-coach”
It is all too easy to get mired down in the muck of our failures (and egos). Not succeeding at something can demotivate and discourage us with greatest of efficiency…if we lit it. Reflecting, many are the times that things didn’t go my way and I automatically turned my disappointment inward, seeking blame by dwelling on my short-comings. Once that got tiring, anything in my environment was fair game for some messy blame-shifting. Who needs that?
On the flip-side, failure can motivate. It can stoke the fires that burn within and push us towards finding another way–a better way. It’s all about perspective, really. We can look at not succeeding as stepping farther away from our desired goal, or we can see it as being a step closer to what we want. When things don’t work out, they no longer remain choices: We remove them from our mental “whiteboards,” leaving a more refined view of the possible.
Failure as “guide”
As we “fall” along the long, winding path of “life,” the universe expects us to learn something along the way. Mainly, how to avoid “falling” should be of great interest to us. So, if our eyes are open and we pay attention, we can use the wisdom we have acquired and avoid further pitfalls and dead-ends that, previously, had made things so frustrating. We must look at our failures, straight in the eyes, and know them. Once we get a true feel from them, learning what they are all about, we should do what’s necessary to avoid making the same mistakes, again. While it is possible to revisit a specific failure, tackle it, and come out on top, it is important to realize that previous experiences will have–at least–taught us to approach, cautiously, and from a different direction.
Through failure, we grow and realize our best selves. In the end, it just may be the best friend we have ever had.
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