We humans have a funny relationship with failure, and perhaps the most curious aspect about it is that the whole thing is completely made up. I mean, the actual concept of “failure” or “failing” itself is one that we’ve created because separate to us, it’s an idea that the rest of the natural world doesn’t share, or even consider.
So, what is “failure” then? If I look at it objectively, it’s when we have an idea about something, a mental model, or a plan that doesn’t match up to the reality of the outcome we find ourselves observing. We then label that outcome as a “failure”, which creates a unique set of feelings and responses depending on what personal value and meaning we have attached to it.
Failure, then, is a misstep with reality. The negative associations we have with failure is the love child of attachment and fixed ideas, but the truth of it is, your body and brain love you to fail… it’s just that they call it something different.
They call it learning.
Learning is when we have an idea and intention about something and act in alignment with that. The outcome we get tells us whether we were close to hitting our mark or far, far away from it, and our brain uses that information to change our motor response so that we can be more efficient and on point next time around.
If you were to have a reasoned conversation with your brain, it would tell you that this idea of failure that you have really gets in the way. It causes you to play out the same reactions and responses and gets in the way of you being able to integrate new information and adapt to it.
So, if you find yourself lamenting your own failure, or contemplating a fear of it, give yourself a poke in the ribs and remind yourself that there is really no such thing. Act in accordance with the reality of what’s in front of you. You’ve taken action and that action gives you new information, which is exactly the information you need to decide on your next best step.
Failure. We just made it up. How liberating.