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We avoid it like the Plague. Who wants to sign up for the possibility of failure? I suspect most of us respond to that question with an emphatic “not me!” And yet, many of us face failure every day. We are so accustomed to it that we do not necessarily notice.
You could fail at getting to work on time. You could forget you stuck something in the broiler and before you know it, you will smell that lousy burnt food odor. You might lose your resolve to go caffeine- or sugar-free and find yourself in line at the local café. A deadline may not be met. A deliverable may not be delivered. With all of this potential for failure, it is a wonder that any of us feel able to get up in the morning. But if we don’t do that, we fail at getting out of bed!
This is a busy time of year for a sports fan so I notice abundant examples of athletes who succeed, either individually or as a team, but sometimes they fail. And they still get paid. They are still appreciated by their fans. Consider the best hitter on any professional baseball team: he is esteemed for a batting average that hovers around .300. Roughly two out of three times, he does not get a hit, and yet he makes a salary that many of us would be delighted to earn.
In tennis, you either win or lose a tournament. However, the losers often get a lesser prize, and they move on to the next tournament where the same drama unfolds.
I have heard athletes acknowledge that they hate to lose. No surprise there. However, they do not stop playing; they have to put that loss behind them as best they can and prepare for the next contest. Does their loss inform their preparation for the next competition? Ideally, yes.
Failure presents us with ample opportunities to grow and improve. Framed that way, I do not know about you but this makes me a lot more willing to face the possibility of failure. Do I like it when it happens? Nope. But if I approach it from the point of view of “What can I learn from this?” or “What can I do differently next time?” the failure just might be part of the prescription for a success in the future. It may be asking a lot to put out the Welcome mat for failure, but if it opens other doors, we might as well view a visit by that which we dread from a more neutral stance.
Often, something positive emerges from a negative occurrence but it can be downright impossible to see or notice this, especially at first. Allow time for the upside of your downer to present itself. It may take years. As I review some of my biggest failures in adulthood, I can look back from today’s perspective and celebrate something good or useful that sprung from each one. Even if it is “just” wisdom acquired, that is quite a bonus.
Review Your Successes
Go ahead: pick one or two of your successes and think about or revel in the favorable outcome. Next, ask yourself “Did any previous failures play a part in this current success?” I’m putting money on it that you will find some correlations. Television coverage of the Olympics often includes stories about athletes who overcame adversity. It is not just in sports; it is everywhere. Our ability to seek and appreciate this linkage requires conscious intent. Try batting .300!
Prompts for Joy
Click here for a humorous look at how to succeed as a tourist in Italy.
(Grazie, sorella-in-law, Kim Scala.)
Click here to see photography that just might make your jaw drop.
(Thanks so much, Roberta Gelt!)
All previous Prompts for Joy (PFJs) can be found at my website, unless the video url is no longer functional.
By no means
do I have joy “figured out.” Please do not assume
that I do! I write Out On a Limb as much as a meditation for
myself in the ongoing pursuit of joy, as for you. I think this
pursuit is a lifelong journey and that the full experience
of joy is, at best, episodic. May we all have more episodes!
Martha Clark Scala, MFT · 721 Colorado Ave., Suite 201, Palo Alto, CA 94303 ·