When was the last time you failed at something? Was it something at work, e.g. failing to meet a yearend target? Or was it something more personal like not being able to keep yourself from eating or drinking too much during the Christmas holiday, although you had agreed with yourself to be more careful this time?
Whatever it was, it probably gave you a bad feeling. Depending on how big your failure was, you may have even hated yourself for a moment. Even if others tell you it was nothing and you should forget about it, chances are you didn’t. It’s at moments like these that you experience how strongly we want to avoid failure in our life. Others may fail, but not you!
Our desire to avoid failure is deeply rooted
This desire to avoid failure is deeply rooted in our psyche, from a very young age, for two reasons. The first reason is that we want to please others and not disappoint them, like our parents or friends. Remember the tests and exams at school or the sport games you played? How many parents actually encourage their children to experience and embrace failure? Oh sure, they tell their children that failing is not a problem but in the meantime children experience the opposite, because they sense that their parents are embarrassed or feel a failure themselves when their child is not successful.
The second reason we don’t want to fail, especially when we are getting older, is because it makes us look incompetent and it opens the door for others to criticize or even ridicule us. And let’s be honest, who wants to be criticized or ridiculed? No one!
But, did you ever realize how your psychological desire to avoid failure is leveraged by others to steer you in certain directions, even if you don’t want to? And, it often results in fear, which makes that people start to miss out on opportunities in their life. I know, because many years ago I missed out on the opportunity of a life time, i.e. becoming a movie distributor, simply because I was afraid to fail.
So, is there a different way to view and deal with failure? I think there is. Actually there are two things you can do to no longer fear “failures.”
Focus on the experience, not on the result
The first thing you can do to no longer feel bad about your failures is to focus on the experience you gain rather than the end result. For example, when I was working with the Crimson Circle, many teachers felt bad about their inability to attract the number of students they desired for their workshops. That was until they started to focus on the experience they had rather than the size of their classes. Even with only one student present in their class, which by all normal “economical” standards would have been considered a failure, especially with an average class size of four, they had some of the most inspiring and remarkable experiences of their life.
Like so many spiritual teachers emphasize, you grow and learn the most from your “failures.” Talking about your failures can even be inspiring to others as David Damberger, the former director of South African Programs for Engineers Without Borders, showed during a recent Ted event by openly talking about (his) failures with development aid.
Don’t pay attention to what other people say or think
The second thing you can do is to no longer concern yourself with what others are thinking or saying about your supposed “failures,” but only listen to what your soul is telling you. This is perhaps the most difficult thing to do because, as we saw earlier, we are conditioned for so long to please others, and have (often) forgotten to listen to our inner voice of truth. That’s where this short discussion with Abraham might come in handy as it explains how you can transcend the opinion of others.
I hope that with this information you will be able to navigate through 2012 and beyond in a more relaxed, joyful and confident manner.