Failure Is Not an Option; It’s a Necessity

Perfectionists everywhere cringe while the average American reader is probably flabbergasted. After all, most of us are raised to believe “failure is not an option.” That you must succeed or else. Pfft. What a bunch of nonsense. And way too much pressure!

For some people the traditional way of thinking works. It motivates them to strive harder and suffer longer, all in the name of success (as defined by them, of course).

While others – so scared of the f-word – become paralyzed and, thus, fail due to their inability to take the first step. Crazy, huh?

Here’s my humble suggestion: fail, and fail miserably.

Imprisoned by perfectionism for nearly 30 years, it’s not easy to write those words. And even more difficult to put them into action. Nonetheless, the past nine months have taught me: It’s okay to fail. Doing so doesn’t mean you’re “bad.” It doesn’t mean you’re not worthy of success (however you define that word).

But, if you don’t fall on your face at least once, you’ll never learn what works and what doesn’t work for your particular situation. You won’t learn new ways to do things, maybe better ways. A great quote states, “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten.”

Failure is an opportunity, not a problem. Step back and re-evaluate:

  1. The goals you want to achieve
  2. The process you use to reach those goals
  3. The timeframe you’ve set
  4. And how you will measure success versus failure

So, to anyone who’s reviewing their 2010 resolutions / goals / dreams and notices a lot of “failures” piling up, you’re not alone. The next post will continue this discussion as I figure out where my creative energies will be directed over the next three months. Here’s a hint: Focus on one story or review at a time.

Finally, it’s important to note, failure to meet one’s goals and missed deadlines are entirely different. Missed deadlines do (and will) affect your credibility and worth, especially in a business environment. The hardest part to figure out is how to meet work deadlines and achieve personal goals at the same time. It’s all about balance, which eludes many, including me.

Still, I won’t give up!

Photo credit: Dylan Parker

7 Replies to “Failure Is Not an Option; It’s a Necessity

  1. Hey, Leah – spot on!

    People who never put themselves “out there” for fear of failure or those who refuse to believe in failure or even those who have it easy all their lives, who seem to have life “figured out” are all in for a nasty surprise when something hits them between the eyes. (And doesn’t something *always* happen?) Usually, those people aren’t prepared to stick it out and persevere. Epic failure (as my teenager says) often results and there are all kinds of drug and alcohol programs just packed with these kind of folks.

    People who fail, learn from it, and use it to get on with their lives are the ones who survive.

    Knowing this, why is my first instinct as a parent to shield my kids from failure? I say to myself that it’s because I don’t want my kids to get hurt. But I’m the one hurting them in the grand scheme of things by not letting them learn on their own. It’s *so* tough to keep my mouth shut!

    Great post, and I look forward to the next one!

    1. Oh don’t get me started on the parental applications of this way of thinking! It’s our instinct, isn’t it, to want only the best for our kids…to protect them from the worst. But, you know what, if we do our jobs right, failures, obstacles, set backs, disappointments, what have you, will be seen as opportunities and not depression-inducing, self-hating problems or events. After all, it’s not what happens that matters as much as how one handles it. Hopefully that makes sense =)

  2. Not exactly sure if I like the word failure. Granted, life does not always unfold for me in the timely manner I might like, but I do understand that sometimes I’m not ready, sometimes that readiness comes much later than I hoped for.

    I suppose, if I was to use the word failure, I might say it can only come about if we quit, but then again perhaps we also change our minds after we set goals. Some goals are unrealistic, especially when we set it within a specific time. (Many of us are very impatient.) I do think goals are good, but I like to keep the time frame open. If I had set a goal to be published by a certain time, I might have given up before I ever had a book published.

    I’ve been thinking about you, Leah and wondering how you’re doing. Hang in there!!

    1. True, Laura. And setting a “deadline” would seem to go against the principles of “the now” and openness to what the universe has in store for us. Hmm, you always make me think =)

      And no matter what happens in my life, I never give up. There are two things I have on my side: the ability to cope with whatever life throws my way and the persistence to continue in spite of those curve balls.

      Sooner or later I arrive at my destination. Though, like you wrote, my patience isn’t satisfied with the “later,” usually. Perhaps that is my lesson: patience with the “when” of things.

      By the way, your shameless self-promotion post a few weeks back – brilliant! It was what my daughter and I call “the cuteness.” I meant to share my comment over there but just haven’t been able to fit much blog reading into my schedule lately.

    1. Yes, my failures have definitely taught me a lot, too, Moira, which is why I’ve wondered quite a bit about the whole “failure is not an option” ideology and its applications over the past few years.

      Thanks for stopping by to share your comment!

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