Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D
"Winning is not everything, it is the only thing!" We all love that repartee of Green Bay Packer coach Vincent Limbardi. Perhaps, an unintended and unwanted side effect of it is the unhappiness it causes for millions of people.
No, winning is not "everything" and it is not "the only thing." Turning failure to your advantage is everything! Learning from failures is the only thing. Failure is the lemon and learning is that proverbial lemonade.
Our culture puts an extremely high premium on winning. Everybody pays attention to a winner. A loser is supposed to sit down and disappear.
Normally, when we achieve success, we get so busy in rejoicing that we actually learn little from it. When we fail, we can focus our entire attention on learning from it. We can learn far more from a failure than we might from a success. One who does not understand this about failure may win a battle or two, but may lose the war of life.
In order to succeed we have to have the right philosophy of life. So, make your own book of the right philosophy of life. One chapter in it should be about how you should view failures. Viewing failure in such a way that you personally begin to feel as a failure can become a real problem. Don't fall into that trap. Failure can be a great teacher. It's up to us to figure out what lessons it offers us. Sometimes, we get so upset that we don't want to look in the face of a failure and learn from it.
"Failure is in the eye of the beholder," says a review of the film Life is Wonderful. We always have the option of viewing a failure as a "trial" or an "experiment" that led to different results than what we expected.
A well-known example is of Thomas Edison who invented the light bulb and many other useful things. Edison failed thousands of times before he hit upon the right solution. What others viewed as Edison's "failed attempts," he considered them as "successful" experiments because they taught him what doesn't work. That opened the way for him to explore other options.
I have not had a chance to watch the film Life is Wonderful but read its review in an online magazine, failuremag.com. Can you believe there is a website for failure? So many "dotcommers" are failing that they thought it vital to network and learn to deal with failures. But, I am digressing. Let's get back to the film.
The film portrays the story of a good and honest man, who after years of struggling to do the right thing, begins to evaluate his life and the choices he made. He starts feeling that his life has been nothing but a failure. Dwelling upon the thoughts of failure lead him to feel that it might have been better if he had never been born. Such thoughts led him to melancholy and despair. He became increasingly suicidal only to be rescued by an angel.
High achievers by and large have a highly positive attitude towards failure. Success thoughts may lead to success. But, putting failure into proper perspective may open doors to success. Wrong thoughts about failure may lead to despair and depression and persuade one to quit trying. According to Stephen Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective people, the only way one fails is when he or she stops trying. Correct thoughts about failure may energize a person to try even harder to avoid the previous mistakes.
Except for those wearing a lucky charm, successes are too few and far between in our lives. To be able to persist in the face of failures is vitally important for achieving success. The road to success is littered with failures. Unless one knows how to utilize one's failures constructively, he or she may never reach the destination of success.
It is not that heroes never fall (or fail), but they get up as soon as they fall. They get up so quickly that a spectator may not even notice that they fell. They don't waste any time getting upset about the fall.
To divert yourself from dwelling upon failure, focus on what is within your control and what you can try next. If you fall, keep moving. Don't be disappointed if you don't make it this time. Disappointment results from "appointing," that is, fixing expectations in your mind too rigidly. The art is to dream and visualize the best possible performance and yet be prepared for failing or losing.
Trying and working hard is praiseworthy. Express thanksgiving when you see yourself and others trying and working harder. Forgive yourself and others for failures. To modify someone else's quotation, "If I don't forgive myself, who will? If I don't forgive others, who am I? And if not now, when?"
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