The word failure in of itself can create quite a negative feeling for people by conjuring up feelings of humiliation, disappointment, smashed expectations and things that went wrong. We explored the difference between what failure actually is, and what it means for us and our identity.
Failure is something which did not work, or something we did not do. When we start to apply failure personally; ‘I am a failure’ we can get into upsetting territory. Maybe if we view failure as something at which we tried but wasn’t for us, perhaps we gave it our best, but whatever happened, we did not succeed, seen in this way we can view failure as something from which we learn, and not something we should make people feel bad for. We talked about not being invested in the outcome, but just being able to be free to be you in the process and encouraging the same in others; if we are not stressed about the outcome we are more likely to be creative, productive and work from a place of joy rather than anxiety.
Group members reflected that not succeeding at something can be helpful for teaching humility, building resilience and quite possibly leading us down an alternative route altogether to be successful in something we hadn’t imagined or set out to do. Derek Redmond and his father did not set out to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona intent on becoming on of the most inspirational, moving, father and son examples. More likely they set out to set a record and win gold. However, the hamstring injury totally changed what was achieved that day. Failure also teaches determination and not losing heart-look at Edison and his 10000 light bulbs!
Someone in the group suggested that the difference between success and failure is a good story! And Nelson Mandela famously quoted Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
What exactly did she mean by this? Have we sometimes got so comfortable in not succeeding to the point of not trying something different, and we can get comfortable in the negative story that we tell ourselves about ourselves that we wouldn’t know what to do with success and needing to change our story?
Is the fear of failure greater than the hope of success? Has being stuck become more comfortable than the discomfort of risking doing something new?
Group members reflected on changes and successes they have made and observed each other making over time as we have been meeting together.