January 17, 2012

Failure Is Not Only An Option, It Should Be A Requirement

by

We’re not perfect. You knew that right? Because some days I know I don’t seem to grasp that concept very well. Anyway, I find that sometimes I overcome my perfectionist tendencies and do things only to end up beating myself up because it didn’t turn out as planned. For example, I enjoy crafting but I don’t do it very often because I don’t think I’m very good at it. I cook and I bake, but I’m not all that adventurous because I worry it won’t turn out like the photo that comes with the recipe.

Toppling FailureBut in all of this perfectionism and holding myself to this higher standard there’s parenting. Where perfectionism shouldn’t exist. Where mistakes are bound to happen and how we handle them says more about us than the fact that there was even a mistake. Where every day we wipe tears as our kids fails, telling them that it’s part of learning. That they’re better because they learned this lesson or tried something even though it didn’t come out as planned.

Fail early, fail often. Not your typical phrase from the motivational guru of the moment. But in reality, it should be something we were taught as kids. It’s like letting the kids run around for an hour before that 11-hour drive to the land of awesome. Get it out of your system and the reward is within reach.

Fail early, fail often. Should we wait until we’re 65 to finally realize starting a business is not in our DNA? Why wait until you’ve got your degree to realize politics isn’t your bag. Is it right to convince yourself the job is too small and shrug off the interview?

Every time we fail we get a chance for a ‘do over’. Maybe not immediately, but definitely down the road if we create the opportunity. For impatient people like myself that’s often a hard pill to swallow. Stories of Thanksgiving dinners gone wrong abound, yet few of us let that stop us from trying again. Standing slack-jawed because we didn’t have a great comeback for an asinine comment sets us off, searching for options even if the option is to smile and kill ’em with kindness. Baking and crafting and exercising or whatever, even if we’re not the best at it.

Failure is not an option. A phrase that should be banned! OK, maybe not banned because there are times where failure definitely should not be an option – like medical procedures, condemning someone for life, various military and emergency responses. You get the picture. Big stuff. For big stuff, failure is not an option. For most of us, we’re not on that playing field. So failure should be an option for us regular folks. To be embraced early and often so we can learn, improve and move forward rather than sit paralyzed thinking we can’t because what if we fail.

Imagine the things we would be willing to allow ourselves to do and try if when we were younger we accepted failure as an option? We need to move ourselves and our kids away from the belief that everyone gets a trophy at the end and instead understand that failure doesn’t mean we’re a loser. It means that next time we know what won’t work, what we shouldn’t do, what we should try differently.

Failure carries with it so much stigma, it’s hard to overcome the belief that failure isn’t an option. We’re led to believe that people who fail are worthless. They’re judged harshly. When in reality, most of the time it’s because we put ourselves out there and push our limits. Willing to do things where perfection is not guaranteed.

It’s a lesson we don’t learn early enough. It’s a lesson we keep from out children, despite our best efforts. Sometimes in failure, the greatest gifts are found.

What has failure taught you?

Image Credit:Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sara

{ 3 comments }

Katie @An Authentic Life January 17, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Sarah Doll,

Seems to me the lessons you REALLY learn from are the ones in which you fail. And fail big!

Thanks for the kind reminder that it’s part and parcel to growth!

Hope all is well in your “perfect” world! Ha!
KT

shifra January 17, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Failure has taught me to try again, to be more diligent, to be more patient, to be better.

Erin January 17, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Failure is essential for learning! I hate that the fear of failure is something that puts so many of us off the idea of trying in the first place. We need it! Like oxygen! How on earth can you become a better person, or improve your skills, or stumble across something unexpected and life-changing, without failure?

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