A simple concept.
Yet there is vast complexity embedded in how we interpret and treat failure, particularly in how the term applies to our own lives.
Failure comes in many forms. Standards go unmet. Objectives aren’t fulfilled. Deadlines are missed.
Things fail. Projects fail. Even people fail.
At its core, failure is an outcome, the result of an event. Simple.
But when I listen to how people (myself included) use it, it often becomes something more.
Failure becomes a personal trait. A character flaw.
It’s not that I failed to accomplish something. It’s that I am a failure.
In the deep darkness of loneliness and fear and anxiety, failing to meet a goal suddenly becomes a reflection of who and what we are. It’s no longer about what we have done or are doing. It’s a thread of our character, bright and gleaming for all to see, much as we long or try to hide it from view.
And sometimes we define “success” in such a way that it’s might be nearly impossible to achieve. We adopt narrow, detailed ideals of how our lives should look. We set unrealistic deadlines. We make no allowances for how factors beyond our control might call for reassessment of definitions or deadlines. We leave no room for our lives to change.
We look for perfection that none of us can deliver.
So failure becomes messy. Complex.
We set ourselves up to fail, and then we internalize that failure as a part of who we are.
But that’s not failure.
Failure is an outcome.
I have failed at many things. I will fail at many more.
Failure is a part of life. A part of learning. It shapes my experience. But it is not who I am.
I am many things. But I am not a failure.