Learning to celebrate your failures…

Here's a first installment on what I feel will become a BIG topic of focus on this blog and in my work.

Did you learn to celebrate failure as a child?

Ever notice that when toddlers are just learning to walk, the adults in their lives are THRILLED to see them bobble around, lose their balance, and fall down? The adults clap their hands, and shriek with delight when these little ones take even one fraction of what looks like might be a first step. When you were learning to walk, the adults in your life kept doing this, and you kept falling down, over and over again, until one day you took that first step, and then a second step, and then another... Once you became an "expert" walker, it was no longer cause for celebration to see you take a step. After awhile, adults started warning you about the "dangers" of falling down, when only several months earlier, the very same action had been enough to cause your parents to reach for their cameras or call the grandparents.

And so it is that we learned how to learn and grow.

Too often when we're trying to go in a new direction - toward uncharted territory, as we create something new - we find ourselves surrounded by the kind of people who want to remind us of the dangers of falling down, of the myriad chain of bad events that could follow a nasty fall, and urge us to bask with them in the illusion of safety, watching the world with fearful eyes. What I've found is that creativity and spiritual growth require a return to that process we went through when we were first learning to walk. We need to be gentle with ourselves, recognize that it will take many attempts, follow our instincts and desires leading us in a new direction, and surround ourselves with the kinds of people who will be there with eyes riveted as we keep trying, failing, and trying again until we succeed. People who, when we look up after our inevitable falls ("failures"), will gasp, smile, clap their hands, and say, "That's it! You're doing it! Now do it again!"

Why celebrate failure?

  • Skills for dealing with failure - like emotional resilience, self-trust, self-compassion, kindness, joy - are like muscles that need to be exercised. If you never go toward the possibility of failure, you never get to practice these skills.
  • If you don't remember the last time you faced the possibility of failure, you probably don't remember the last time you took a real risk. Instead of equating failure with doom, start training your brain to equate failure with being on the path of creativity and learning.
  • Get used to it. If you become comfortable with the discomfort of failure - and the only way to do this is to actually go through many small failures, over and over again - you'll have a key piece in the process of getting what you want. Holding a vision is one half of the equation, and being willing to fail repeatedly and progressively on your way towards the vision is the other half.

OK, so HOW do you begin to celebrate failure?

  • Gather the support and encouragement you need. Let go of spending time with people who complain or  send you messages reinforcing a fear of failure. You may be surprised to find out that some of your closest friends, coworkers, and family members may be reinforcing this fear of failure. If you are truly committed to moving in a new direction, you'll need to look closely at what you are really gaining from these types of interactions. And you may decide it's time to let them go. Find a community of people who are learning, growing, and embracing their own failures on the way to their larger visions of themselves.
  • Dream big...then take the SMALLEST possible step NOW. My guess is you don't have a problem dreaming big. If you're at all like me, you have such big goals that you get overwhelmed by the very next step you need to take, which is always right now, and is usually a much smaller step than you've imagined it to be. Define the smallest possible next step toward your dream, and then make it even smaller. Then DO IT. Be willing to fail...because you've surrounded yourself with those kinds of people who will smile, applaud, and encourage you to get up and do it again and again until you succeed. Right?
  • Acknowledge yourself. Yes, CELEBRATE your failure! Know that when you celebrate yourself in any way, you are acknowledging your process. Learning to practice kindness, gentleness, compassion, and love of your SELF is essential to creating the kinds of relationships, finances, health, and inner peace that you are longing for. So start small and start now.
For part two and the ending of this video, visit this link. Photo credit: McBeth

2 thoughts on “Learning to celebrate your failures…

  1. Robert Kelsey

    This is a great post. Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence states that companies should even try and adopt a culture of failure, in which failure is encouraged. Only then can we lose our fear of failure. It is the only way of growing. Of realising the limits. Of learning, and then moving on. I have a book coming out on fear of failure in 2011 called What's Stopping You? Please also read my supporting blog…

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