Una's Blog


50 Failure

graphic-6by Una Hearne.

Some definitions:

  • Non performance of something due, required or expected
  • Subnormal quantity or quality (of crops for example)
  • Non functioning (of machine for example)
  • Unsuccessful person or thing.

Ok, I can accept a human being can fail to do something. I can see a crop can fail and I get that a machine can fail to work. And I know there is a feeling of failure when something does not work out the way you planned – I’ve felt that! (Of course a feeling is a feeling, not a fact.)

But the more I examine failure in relation to human beings – ‘an unsuccessful person’ – the more difficult I find it is to pin down. The only failure as a person I can really accept is the epic fail of maliciously hurting other human beings for your own gain. Everything else we label failure in ourselves, I have major problems with. Let me explain by way of a couple of examples of common events we take to heart, and for which, we label ourselves failures.

  • EVENT –  ‘I failed an exam. I’m a failure’
    RESPONSE – Then I worked hard, repeated it and got it.
    Or I changed direction to something that suits me better so it became irrelevant.
    Or I put my energy into an area I like and started getting results.

Surely any one of these responses means the outcome is in fact successful?

  • EVENT – ‘My business collapsed and I lost all my money. I am a failure.’
    RESPONSE – I experienced the grief cycle which gave me real empathy, insight and new resources in life.
    Or I started another business, wiser and more careful, using what I learned to make a success of it.
    Or I found a job to support myself and discovered a whole new area of work I love.

Surely any one of these responses means the outcome is in fact successful?

I think life is a cycle of successes and failures. I don’t think you can have one without the other and whether you label your experience ‘successful’ or ‘failure’ depends a lot on the point in time you focus on. Our negative mental bias does mean a lot of us focus on what we perceive as our failures, and that is a problem. In the short term that focus can provide learning and information to help us avoid repeating choices which didn’t work for us. But in the long term we build on success, so we need to remember to focus on our successes.

My experience is if you are making an effort to do your best it is very difficult to identify anything as a failure. A human being can’t fail if they keep moving forward.



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