Meditations on Failure
Folks, I thought long and hard about what to blog about today. There are so many subjects in the news, including Donald Trump’s odd and nonsensical comments about a past Miss Universe contestant (why Trump should care about anyone else’s weight but his own is beyond me), but I decided on this one. I hope you enjoy it.
What does it mean, and can we learn anything from it?
Of course, we all know what failure means, roughly. We tried something, and it didn’t work out. That could’ve been anything — a job, a relationship, a creative pursuit, whatever. But some failures hurt more than others, and that’s why I wanted to talk about it today.
Can we learn anything from failure? Can we improve ourselves, and how we move on about our daily business, a little better because we’ve failed at something? Does it make us more empathetic toward others, as it’s a universal condition?
I’d like to think the answer to all of the above questions is yes.
Look. We’ve all done something, said something, or failed to do something or say something that has hurt someone else — or ourselves. We’ve all had days where we didn’t live up to our highest standards; we’ve had days where we couldn’t get anything done; we’ve had days where the only thing that seems constant is the pressure all around us, mocking us, telling us that what we’ve done and said and been has not been enough.
In other words, failure seems like it’s a reinforcement of negative thoughts. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
I’d rather look at failure in a different way, if you don’t mind. Failure is where you tried something that just did not work, for whatever reason. You learned something, probably, even if you don’t realize exactly what that thing was, and you’re going to move forward with a greater knowledge of yourself and others…which, if you think about it from a more healing direction, is a win/win.
“But Barb,” you say. “What about just feeling like a failure, when you’ve not done anything wrong? What about that?”
Hm. That’s a tougher one to talk about, but I’ll try anyway.
Those of us who deal with a great deal of stress every day are going to have times where we can’t do that much. That’s just the way life is. That does not make you a failure, for understanding that you’re going to have a bad day or three here and there.
So, even if you have a bad day, or a whole series of them, please do not think that makes you a permanent failure.
All it means is that you’ve had a bad day (or a series of them).
“But how can I turn that to my advantage, Barb?” you ask, pulling worriedly at your hair. (Yes, I can see you from here. I know you’re doing that. Or some other nervous tic.)
Well, if you can keep it in mind that we all have bad days, and we all have endured them, that might allow you to be more understanding and empathetic…and also give you an appreciation for the good days you previously took for granted.
Why is it that we don’t appreciate good days that much, hm? Why don’t we say to ourselves, “I wrote two thousand words today,” and be as pleased about that as we are for someone else when he or she does it? Why is it we don’t say to ourselves, “Hey, you managed to walk a mile today when your back was out, and it actually made your back feel a little better even though it was exhausting,” when we’d gladly say that to anyone else we know?
In short, I think failure is meant to remind us of two things.
- We’re human.
- No one’s perfect all the time, no matter how hard we try.
So, just for today, be gentle to yourself — as gentle as you’d be with your best friend.
Maybe that way, you’ll be able to have a better day, and do more. (And even if you don’t have either one, it certainly can’t hurt.)