Temporary Defeat vs. Failure



If you’re in the habit of moaning, “I’m such a failure” every time you don’t get something quite right—stop right now! If not for your own sake, for the sake of your children who are watching and learning from you, and whom you don’t want to grow up with inferiority complexes and the idea it’s better not to try.

If you feel like a “failure” because it seems you work and work and never get anywhere, consider: Thomas Edison, struggling to create his first successful light bulb, reportedly said that so far he had discovered 1,000 ways not to make it. J. K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter novel was turned down by a dozen publishers, and her first editor told her she’d never make a living wage from writing. Babe Ruth, who hit over 700 home runs in his major-league career, also struck out 1,330 times.

Just about every famous name has similar stories: they did great things not because they found success easy or guaranteed, but because they believed in themselves and their work and in learning by trial and error.

It’s something all of us are born with—you’ll never find a toddler developing a “failure complex” because it takes hundreds of tumbles to learn to walk—but far too many of us “outgrow” that sort of persistence. We learn to worry about looking foolish. We believe the majority when they say “impossible.” We start to regard even minor mistakes as catastrophic. Controlled by fear of the worst, we never achieve our best.

If you or your kids have feeling-like-a-failure struggles, here are some ideas for kicking that habit:

  • Never fall into the “You only got 99 percent?!?” trap. Focus on achievements (no matter how minor they seem in themselves) that show progress and initiative.
  • Spend some time every week following at least one “impossible” dream that calls to your heart.
  • Remember that progress on a difficult task is more satisfying than quick success at an easy one.
  • When working on something that requires a long-term commitment, pause to celebrate each stage of improvement.
  • Don’t worry about what others think. Their opinions can only hurt you if you let them.
  • Never scold yourself with “You could have done better.” If you really think you could have, forgive yourself and start over with a clean slate.
  • Try to cut the “rush” from your life by cutting out activities you’re doing from habit or just to please someone else.
  • Take good care of your health. You won’t do your best at anything if you’re fatigued or sick.
  • Commit yourself to enjoying life and making your best contribution as a unique individual. “God don’t make no junk,” and you were created as the one perfect example of you.