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Failure can be a crushing situation for many people. It can cause devastation not only for those concerned but also for the people around them. The fear of failure can also block growth and exploration. Despite what others say, I think you should embraced failure instead of felling sorry for yourself.
Why embrace failure?
Failure makes us better equipped to deal with the future, it makes us better thinkers, innovators and creators.
In fact Tim Brown, the CEO of the “innovation and design” firm IDEO took it to another level. During his 2008 TED talk, Tim encouraged his audience to take part in an interesting experiment.
He asked the audience to draw a portrait of the person next to them in less than 30 seconds. As soon as the audience started to share their creations, people started laughing and appologizing to one another because they were embarrassed by their portraits. Brown concluded that this result happens 9 times out of 10 times when done with adults.
If children were asked to do the very same thing there would be no embarrassment, shame, or remorse. Most would quite happily share their masterpiece to anyone and be proud of their drawings.
What this tells us is that at some point during the development period from childhood to adulthood we learn to fear new ideas and challenges. This mainly happens because we fear what others might think about us. However, if you learn to embrace failure, stop being afraid of rejection, and make more mistakes, there is a distinct possibility that you will get it right the next time.
How to be more childlike
As I watch my 8 year old nephew embark on new challenges daily, there is never a time when you’ll hear him fretting about what’s to come. Instead you’ll see superhero like determination in his eyes.
Children just simply don’t have the tendency to look to the future like adults do. They take on new experiences while enjoying each and every moment. There’s no embarrassment or shame, just natural curiosity about the world. Their experimentation is seen as exciting and fresh, rather than daunting and doubtful.
Let’s take a look at how you can be more childlike when it comes to failure.
Children are good at asking questions. They want to know the answers, especially when things go wrong. So as an adult we should be questioning everything too. It helps us alter our thinking and make sure that we aren’t always making ignorant assumptions about people or situations.
Sharing is a great way of relieving stress and worry. As adults we neglect to do this because of fear or embarrassment. We fear how we will look in the eyes of our peers, colleagues, or partners. This is quite silly if you think about it. Sharing creates a greater bond between two people. It can improve trust and provide an opportunity for someone to ease the suffering.
To prove my claim, I would like to share an interesting story as an example.
In 1973 a volunteer fire-fighter named Mitchell witnessed a horrific car accident which involved a young woman speared through the chest by a metal pipe, after colliding with a lorry loaded up with them.
After the incident he couldn’t forget the event no matter how hard he tried. After some time, he finally decided to speak about it with his brother. To his surprise he received an instant release of stress and felt freedom.
Nearly ten years later, Mitchell wrote a paper about his experience in The Journal of Emergency Services. He titled the article “Critical Incident Stress Debriefing.” He proposed that simply talking about an issue or in this case, a traumatic event, can elevate the situation and help you forget about it.
Research since then discovered that our brains don’t always remember things as constant. Each time an event is remembered it will change in some way. The structure of our memory is warped by the current feelings of the situation and knowledge, which is why when we remember a traumatic event soon after it has happened can create new fears and stresses.
Improve your ideas
Figuring out why something failed is the first step. What went wrong? What worked out? What can be improved? Remember, everything you see around you, like your mobile phone, laptop, hair dryer, dish washer, or vacuum, went through some kind of failure first to get to what it is today.
A week or so ago I submitted this post to an experienced blogger to review, it looked nothing like it does today. The content wasn’t up to scratch and to be honest, I’d rushed it to some degree. Not because I thought it was good, more because of my thinking around it. I honestly didn’t believe it would get accepted. And I was right…
I was a little disheartened at first. I thought I wasn’t good enough. However, after imagining what I’d do if I were a child, I began to see things differently. I saw my first ‘failure’ as a chance to make better post. I began to feel my confidence and enthusiasm grow significantly. If I’d stayed in fear, you wouldn’t be reading this right now.
People who ‘failed their way’ to success
Joanne Rowling (JK Rowling) had her own struggles prior to writing one of the World’s best known novel series, Harry Potter. She went through living in poverty, severe depression, and rejection numerous times after writing Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. Nonetheless, her fearless attitude and dedication to her life’s work has been the cornerstone of her success.
The speech given by her at Harvard’s Graduation 2008 is something I’ll never forget. In an open, honest, and insightful speech, she said “Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it… I’m not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one… You may never fail on the scale that I did, but some failure in life is inevitable, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”
So are you still fearful of failure?
If you’re a thinker, you might end up creating fearful thoughts about a situation, which results in you imagining the worst scenario possible. To alter this you need to get into the routine of giving yourself permission to fail. Visualize your fear and ask yourself “Is this true?” None of your fears are fact; they are merely possibilities in your imagination.
Life is all about taking risks to get what you want. Think of it this way. How would you have ever gotten to the position you’re in now? Take a moment to ponder about the event that led you to your current job or relationship. Did you take action to get to where you are today? Or did you simply sit on the couch and everything just “fell into place.”
Failure doesn’t have to be a devastating experience. Failure is your friend. It guides you through the wonderful experience called life. Embrace and cherish it as a child would.