Have you thought about your personal definitions for “success” and “failure”? Maybe you see success as a destination, like winning a race. You look forward to crossing the finish line, being declared the winner, having the prize of recognition in the present moment, as well as future acclaim and rewards — all because you made the right moves!
Under the same model, failure could be seen as getting off on a dead-end side street, having to retrace your steps and suffer lost time. Even if others remain politely silent, you and your self-criticism agree that the path taken has turned out to be a “not-so-smart move.” Mistakes appear as “hard lessons” that bring the pain of guilt and regret.
Most of us would agree: success is a good to be sought after; failure is bad and to be avoided.
But as someone who works with people facing challenging economic circumstances, there’s no way I can use this black and white, all or none thinking in dealing with and solving problems. When someone faces job loss, foreclosure, and bankruptcy, it’s no help to advise a stiff upper lip just to avoid some shameful feelings that can only make matters worse.
Failures can be redefined as lessons learned that actually promote success.
For example, famous political leaders like Winston Churchill have seen the word “success” as the ability to handle multiple failures and traveling the road of failure itself as the expected route to achievement of goals.
Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. – Winston Churchill
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. – Winston Churchill
In addition, famous athletes remind us that success requires risk taking. They are action takers, who do the actions calculated to win, and who continue to take actions, even in the face of so-called failure.
I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed. – Michael Jordan
Why does Michael Jordan point to failure as his means to success? His total points made (successes) were more numerous and more memorable than his misses (failures). And Michael Jordan’s established record is for winning more games than he lost, making more baskets than he missed, and for NOT going on a self-condemning guilt trip when he missed the shot that could have won the game, but it didn’t.
He would agree with Success Coach/Author Jennifer White who advises:
"Fail often to succeed sooner."
Nobody likes making mistakes. But making mistakes and learning from them actually moves you closer to the goal. All that is actually an insurmountable obstacle is quitting.
Quitting is different from failing – you can fail your way to success as long as you don’t quit.
1. Mistakes are inevitable – they come as part of our striving for a goal. Most mistakes come with lessons that can shape them into valuable stepping stones towards achieving goals, aka successes.
2. There’s no point in being overwhelmed with guilt and regret, since you can use the same emotional energy to analyze, learn, and feel good about the lessons learned.
3. There is no such thing as failure unless you stop moving towards your goal