Sitting on my desk at home is a heavy paperweight inscribed, “never, never, never give up.” The quote from Winston Churchill is our unofficial family motto. I love that quote. It has helped me innumerable times when the going got tough, and I was tempted to mail it in and call it quits. In those times, when the mountain seemed too high and too hard to climb, I was so glad I persevered.
That motto serves me well, but no matter how much I persevere, failing still happens with regularity. In those times, how I think about failing makes all the difference.
Failing is an event, not an identity.
This begins by understanding the critical distinction that failing is an event, failure is an identity. The reason we have such a difficult time with failing is that we don’t delineate between experiencing an event of failing and assuming the identity of failure. When I fail, whether it is a sporting event, a business venture, or an attempt to build a new habit, I have two choices. I can view my failing as confirmation that I am worthless, a failure. Or I can view my failing as an event of one who sometimes succeeds and sometimes fails. When I reframe failing as an event, I de-fang its power to harm me.
Then, I have the chance to experience the following four benefits:
When I fail, which is often, I learn what doesn’t work. More importantly, I learn about myself. I see clearly my motives, my ego, and short-sightedness that sabotage my efforts. I learn that despite my best efforts, success is not always in my control. At the core, I discover that I can survive failing.
2. Failing Humbles
From failing, I am forced to face my weaknesses and limitations. I come to understand that, in reality, I cannot do anything that I set my mind to. As long as I do not let failing set me back from striking out again, that humility makes me a better person, a more compassionate person, and a wiser person.
3. Failing Redirects
Sometimes failing comes to us despite our best efforts as a not-so-subtle nudge in a different direction. A job loss, a relationship breakup, a business demise all can be providential mercy opening a better door where the previous door just shut.
4. Failing Strengthens
We become infinitely stronger when we allow failing to do its good work in us. This will not likely be pleasant. In fact, it could be devastating, but after a while, we come back stronger than ever. Muscles that are not tested, that are not pushed to their limits, will never strengthen to their maximum potential.
These benefits of failing will change our life for the better if we let them. But they are dependent on two prior commitments.
First, we must be willing to take the risk of starting. Life is too short to play it safe. We live when we take chances and risk failure. Of course, we must calculate the cost and be prudent. But some people are so cautious that they miss out on the adventure that life offers the person willing to fail.
Second, the benefits of failure are only for the one who chooses to get up. In the Bible, Proverbs advises us, “for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought to calamity.” (Prov. 24:16) In other words, both fall down, but only one gets up.
Choose to take wise risks without fear of failing. Should we fail the benefits that come along with failing will make us stronger, wiser, and more humble.
How can you take a wise risk in 2019?
Any fears of failure holding you back?