Failure is not an Option

I’ve been pondering the idea of failure lately (an odd thing to muse over, yes I know). Because we are always encountering failures aren’t we? The question is how do we perceive it, and what do we do with it?

Sometimes trying something new or dreaming big is a little scary. The fear factor, and especially the fear of failure, can creep in. We might dream a little, but then the ‘what if’s?’ start and quickly snap us back to reality.

  • What if I am wrong?
  • What if it doesn’t work?
  • What if I don’t make it?
  • What if it fails
  • What if I look ridiculous?
  • What will people think?

As a teacher, I see the fear of failure exemplified in my classroom. Often when given a task, my students will sit there and look at me blankly. They would rather sit there and write NOTHING and risk getting in trouble, rather than writing SOMETHING with the chance that it could be WRONG. Most of my students aren’t lazy or defiant; they are paralysed by fear. I have plenty of discussions in my classrooms about confronting the fear of failure, changing our mindset to an experimental learning approach and the cost of holding back in life.

And do you know what? Once my students are given permission to fail (aka learn!) they jump in all guns blazing, having a go and just doing their best. It’s a beautiful thing to see in action, and we are no different. It might not be answering the question about Shakespeare that holds us back. Fear of failure can paralyze us and keep us holding back in the moments of our every day lives; IF we let it, that is.

But I know the antidote to fear or failure. It’s a simple mindset shift. Think about it this way… What if we viewed life as a series of experiments rather than a pass or fail kind of deal? How freeing is that?! So there’s no right or wrong. No pass or fail. What if life was just one experimental experience after the other? Now, there is one catch. The only time the experiment fails is if we fail to try at all OR we fail to learn (doing the same thing and expecting the same result; I’ve heard that described as the definition of insanity!).

Just imagine a life with ZERO failure. Possible? I say yes! A life with zero failure looks like this: we try something new, we reflect on the experience, we learn from it by celebrating what went well and identifying ways to do better next time and then we try again. How easy is that? Trying something new and it not working isn’t failure, it’s simply learning!

Just imagine if you’d never tried to walk? I know you can’t remember how it felt at that stage in your own life, but you’ve seen it in action I’m sure. A little baby trying, hoping, willing itself to walk. How many times do they fall over? Heaps! How many times do they not make it? Lots! Usually they have a little chuckle, think for a moment, get right back up and have another go. They keep going until they get there.

Many of us take one little tumble, assume we’re a failure and that it would be better to throw that idea in the bin. What a tragedy it could be if we give up too soon! I love this quote by Thomas Edison who invented the light bulb. He had many ‘failed’ inventions before he created something that forever changed the course of humanity. Reflecting on his past ‘failures’ he said this. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Without doubt, knowledge is gained by learning. BUT wisdom is gained from experience. And experience is only obtained by getting outside of your comfort zone, trying something new and learning from it, again and again…. My encouragement for you today is, instead of thinking what might go wrong, start focusing on what could go right! Fear of failure can paralyze us and keep us from experiencing some amazing things life has to offer only IF we let it. It can keep us as a spectator on the outskirts of life rather than getting in the game. Sure it might be less scary, and at times less painful, but we also rob ourselves of the truly exhilarating highs of experiencing the fullness of life when we choose to play it safe.

Do you see failure as a devastating blow to give up or motivation to try again? I choose the latter. Let’s not live on the sidelines of our own lives. This life isn’t a dress rehearsal. Get your brave on, get ‘failing’ and get in the game!

‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go’ Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

If you want more encouragement, you can check out me sharing more on why failure is not an option on my show Healthy Happy Soul TV here

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