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Recently someone posed the following questions; Why do we fail in life? Why do so many fail and very few succeed?’ As this person continued on, he asked ‘Even though we all want to succeed, are we all bound to fail along the way? Is failure the key to success?’ As I started to answer these questions, it occurred to me that there are no quick answers to these questions and even what I will write hereafter can be expanded upon as one thinks about these questions in more depth.
My first reaction is that failure is a perception. When do we actually determine that something or someone is a failure? As I was thinking this through, a couple of examples came to my mind. When a baby first pulls itself up and then takes that first step, normally the baby immediately falls. I can’t think of one person that has said ‘my baby failed to walk’ or ‘my baby is a failure because it failed to walk when it took the first step‘. Instead we all encourage the baby to try again, and again, and however many times that it takes until the baby can stand and walk on its own.
I thought then about a child as it learns to ride a bicycle. To my knowledge, no one has ever just hopped on a bike and rode off on the very first try. We all go through various stages, first with the tricycle, then moving to a 2-wheeler with training wheels or at the very least with a parent holding us up before we have the confidence to say ‘let go’ and then go off on our own. Usually turning to say, ‘look, I’m doing it all on my own!’ before falling. I don’t know of anyone that would call that a failure.
Who decides then that an event is a failure? Does some possibly well-meaning person that observes one’s progress along the way towards a goal have the right to determine that an outcome is a failure? What if the person actually isn’t well-meaning, do they have the right to determine that your efforts are a failure?
The reason why I think the original questions are so important is I find most people’s failure occurs in 1 of 2 ways. First, there is the person that never gets into action moving towards their goal. As Napoleon Hill wrote in his book Think & Grow Rich, “Most of us go through life as failures, because we are waiting for the time to be right to start doing something worthwhile.” Hill went on to say; “Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command and better tools will be found as you go along.”
The second way many people fail is that they give up before they achieve the goal. Another quote from Hill is “Lack of persistence is one of the major causes of failure. Most of us are good starters, but poor finishers of everything we begin.” When a person makes a decision to press on in the direction of their goal, fine tuning and adjusting as they go along, looking for the signs that they are on the right track; they will succeed. So persistence is the antidote to failure.
A goal is something that causes us to be greater than what we are right now. Look at a young person that says they want to be a doctor. Now they don’t just sit and wait to become one. They study, learn about things they now know nothing about, they stretch their mind and do new things, learn new skills and in the process become a doctor.
This is true of any goal. In fact, if you desire something and you don’t have to become something more than what you are now or do something that you have never done before, than it really isn’t a goal. There is no challenge or glory from achieving something that you can have right now.
So now let’s say you set a goal and decide upon a date when you expect that you will be, do or have it. Then the date comes and it hasn’t materialized. Possibly instead of it materializing, something that you perceive as negative has occurred instead. Is this a failure? Or is this an obstacle that must give way or even a fortuitous event that leads to something even better than what you had envisioned.
I think one of my favorite examples is Thomas Edison. He had 10,000 experiments or what some may call failures before he discovered the incandescent light bulb. Where would we all be right now if he gave up after 5,000 tries? He viewed each of these as learning experiences and he made the necessary adjustments.
When something unexpected arises in the pursuit of a goal, instead of looking at it as a failure, one should look for the success in it and then what they could do to improve from there. Then continue on towards the goal with the new improvement and possibly continuous adjustments along the way. Many times in the course of going after a goal, there is knowledge that one must gain in order to get there. Seek the improvements in yourself and in your conditions and you most certainly will succeed.
The whole purpose of a goal is for someone to grow in awareness and discover something more about oneself. No matter what is achieved in the end, the crowning glory comes in becoming something more than what you were before you started.
It is actually our ‘failures’ or really the results that we didn’t expect that make us who we are. If we are in pursuit of a goal and there is a perceived failure, we can take that situation and look for what we can do now. Look for what was successful in it and what lesson can be learned. Then by going back and trying something else based on that knowledge, another result will occur that moves one closer to their ultimate goal. It is in this process that we use our mental faculties and develop our inner strength.
It makes me wonder, why is it so commonplace that people view obstacles or setbacks as failures? Raymond Holliwell in his book ‘Working With The Law‘’ said it best; “Obstacles serve as an opportunity to call up our latent powers. They draw us out and make us strong; they lead us to the goal we have in view.” Based on that, everyone should delight and be grateful for every obstacle that comes their way.
One thing is certain. No one will ever accomplish anything of importance sitting in their comfort zone. If you want different results, then you’ve got to do something different!
Susan Bagyura, an Executive Leadership Coach, is the author of The Visionary Leader: How to Inspire Success From The Top Down. http://www.thevisionaryleader.com As President of Blue Danube Coaching Limited, she gives seminars and conducts teleseminars on goal achieving, sales and customer service. For more information and a free download of Purpose/Vision/Goals, click here Susan can be reached at 617-297-2750 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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