Friday, February 6, 2009

Life’s Aim: Become Accustomed to Failure

A large part of my professional role is to promulgate specialist information, promoting issues and the sort. Recently I undertook a direction and sent out some dubious information to a large number of people and I did so quite blindly in retrospect. I was quickly corrected by a number of well-meaning people on my error and then--the beauty of email--‘recalled’ the message with an explanation as to the error. No harm done, all sorted … ?

From my perspective, in my professional capacity and with my training and experience, this failure was rather embarrassing. I probably should have checked the source of the information. My instinct didn’t trust the source but I was following an instruction--again, blind obedience perhaps.

I felt tempted to berate myself as we all seem to do, but fortunately I’m learning something about life that more than adequately defeats that temptation--provided we’re mindful of it at the time.

My response instead was to just smile within myself and accept it. Perhaps, I simultaneously thought, ‘I fail more than most’ (though this is unlikely to be true). A number of negative thoughts cloud our heads like, ‘What does so and so think of me now?’ Still, I accepted it in the midst of doubt.

Doubt causes a fear response and to go ahead and accept the logic of a situation in spite of the doubt requires courage--and it develops courage when we practice it.

The inevitable truth is this: we all fail. One of the keys to life success, resilience and staying power is how we deal with our failures--our failures do not define us, but our response to failure does. We must adjust our mental and emotional processes such that we are not crushed by the failure; we do this and positive strength ebbs away.

Often it is guilt that facilitates the berating of the self. We don’t like failing--it’s not part of the plan; it disappoints people; we look silly and incompetent; we have to complete re-work etc… it’s plain horrible.

When we get past the guilt, however, and get to a courageous acceptance and just smile within, whilst learning the positive lessons that come from these humbling circumstances, we gain strength and self-belief.

With resounding effect comes the quote from Theodore Roosevelt that bears strong, considered reflection:

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never tasted victory or defeat.”

Many who would criticise us are the ones who refuse to actually step into the ‘arena’ of life and risk failure to succeed.

And for our own failures and the powers against us at these times--and of our best informed response--in these circumstances, early Church father, Chrysostom said:

“Yet those that be against us, so far are they from thwarting us at all, that even without their will [and intent to destroy us or our reputations] they become to us the causes of crowns, and procurers of countless blessings [when we respond the right way], so that God’s wisdom turns their plots unto our salvation [deliverance] and glory. See how really no one is against us!” (Italics, [*] and bold mine.)

Failure should not crush us. We should, on the contrary, be thankful for it, for we learn how to learn, and we can identify with failure, supporting the next person who’s not so adept at dealing with it.

Most of all we’re gracious in accepting our own failures and supremely gracious when dealing with others’ failures.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

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