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'Failure'

The result of not meeting an expectation.

Thoughts of Failure Creates Negativity

While many will find the above description adequate I find it counter-productive, that is it works against human nature by creating feelings of low self-esteem. Lifeforms are competitive by nature, they have to be to survive. This is no different in humans but we have evolved to the point where our need to survive in most developed nations is not really an issue. For most of history humans have had to fight to survive, overcoming food shortages, finding good shelter all while competing with other animals and tribes. In the developed world these basic needs are met in varying degrees and except in extreme cases is not a major issue. What we now compete against is frivilous 'wants' like who has the best clothes, the biggest house or the best car. This is an extension of our basic instinct and in my opinion counter-productive. Not that I think having nice clothes or a nice car is a bad thing, but making others feel bad because they do not meet our own expectation of greatness is small minded and works against the greater community. I'm happy to see others enjoying the fruits of their labour as long as they do not use it against others.

 

Anger Management

 

Failure Creates Petty Jealousy

The same goes for people who have not met their own expectations and ridicule with envy and petty jealousy those who have succeeded. People who meet their objectives in life are typically those that keep society afloat. If no-one succeeded we would all be living in caves, picking berries and hiding from predators. The successful engineer would not be around to build shelter and transport for the rest, the fashion designers would not be creating the protective, beautiful and comfortable clothing, and we certainly would not have the relative abundance of food that we create, store and distribute. If you feel pangs of envy once in a while, channel it into motivation and focus on meeting or adapting your expectations in life - it is a better use of your finite energy.

Making Choices

So if my expectations in life are not the same as yours, then who's expectation is right? Neither and both. It's our individual choice and our own point of view. For me to criticise someone else for not meeting my expectations is a little misguided. The combination of all people's different expectations is many times that of all the people on the planet, billions and billions of expectations. How could I expect my neighbour or even my partner to have the same expectations as me, let alone someone quite distant? So if someone else's expectation is not really important to me, how can it matter if they do not meet that expectation? It cannot possibly be failure from my point of view as the expectation is irrelevant.

What is Failure is Real?

This narrows it down to the individual and how they meet their own expectations. I'm not sure if it is natural instinct or social conditioning, but we find ourselves hung up on 'failure'. How often do you here the term 'loser'? How often does the media condition us to think if we meet their expectation of ourselves we will be successful? 'Buy this and be successful', or 'Act his way and be normal'. How many 'rich and successful' people are still very unhappy? I can tell you that most are. Why is it the people with the 'least' seem the happiest? It all comes down to an individual's self-esteem. Thinking in terms of success or failure can have a very poor affect on most people. Some condition their 'failure' out of their mind and accept they will never achieve much and dont let it affect them. Others cycle through the emotional highs and lows which can leave them exhausted and unmotivated. This leaves a final group of people who think differently about failure and push on regardless.

A Different Way of Viewing Failure

What if there was another way to think about meeting and not meeting one's expectations? There is. Consider an outcome as a True or False result, where True means an individual can move on to the next task, and false means they are not ready to move on and will have to try a new approach until a True result is achieve. This is logic. Simply put, take the emotion out of the result and focus on solving the task. As Thomas Edison once said about failure "I didn't fail, I just found 10,000 ways not to solve the problem". Each time a False result was achieved Edison had not gone backwards, he had learned something thus moving him forward one step towards his goal. Hence why some call 'failure' a learning experience. Each time we try a new approach we gain valuable experience over time and master skills. Thus the next time a task becomes easier and before too long it comes naturally as it is habit.

 

Light Bulb

 

Think of a baby learning to walk. They get up, they try something new and then they fall down. They keep on doing this until they become good at walking. Sometimes they cry but they mostly smile. If their parents did all the walking for them do you think they would learn to walk? No they wouldn't as their legs would not get stronger, their balance would not improve, nor would their technique. Sometimes we have to fall down to get back up again and get back up better. By leaving the baby to try on its own he or she learns faster and learns a basic fact that 'they can do it'.

 

Failure?

 

You have a choice how to respond to an event. You can choose to be positive about it, you can choose to be negative about it, or you can choose to be indifferent about it. Which choice helps your enthusiasm and self-esteem? Positivity comes from knowing that each negative result places you one step closer to a positive result. Thinking that you should get it right first time, every time is irrational perfectionism.

Further Reading

Failure (wikipedia)