Transforming Your Perspective on Failure for Mental Health and Success
Story: The Price of Serenity
“Mr. David, what are the threads of experience you cherish the most?” asked the lady.
Amid the majestic peaks and whispering pines, the writer, David, sat in his secluded mountain cottage, his pen poised over a blank page. He had recently published a novel, and a journalist had come to interview him.
With a contemplative smile, David gazed into the distance and replied, “The threads I cherish most are the moments of kindness I’ve woven into the lives of others and the times I stood firm in my convictions, even when it meant solitude.”
The lady, sensing the richness of his thoughts, pressed further, “Would you be more successful had you stayed amidst the hustle and bustle of a metropolitan city rather than seeking solace in the isolation of these mountainous landscapes?”
David wove together the threads of his existence, acknowledging the interplay of nature and nurture. “We are all products of our genes and environment, but for me, my inspiration lies in the landscape and atmosphere here. City life never had the same impact on me. The winding roads of this small town have gifted me countless stories. I experienced freedom and was never willing to trade it with a plush job or a corporate career.”
Curiosity danced in the lady’s eyes as she asked, “What about these hills that beckon you, Mr. David?”
David’s gaze wandered to the majestic landscape beyond his window, a landscape that had shaped his very being.
“The mountains are mighty, and man is insignificant,” David replied. “In this solitude, you are unaffected by the world’s rat race. You preserve your uniqueness. Of course, this solitude comes at a price. I could have been published more widely and attracted more acclaim. But all that would have cost me my serene lifestyle and contentment.”
Finally, she asked, “How would you describe failure, Mr. David?”
“Failure is a necessary companion of the brave on his journey of discovery. To label it as a foe is to misunderstand its purpose. Failure is a thread, sometimes frayed and broken, yet essential to the beauty of the whole.
Its the mirror that reflects our limitations, a harsh but honest teacher. It whispers, “Not this way,” and compels us to chart new courses to scale greater heights.”
David looked out; the sun dipped below the horizon, casting long shadows over the mountain cottage! He had found his place in the world, and he was content. He didn’t need anything more.
Have you ever felt like a failure? Most of us have, at some point in our lives. But what does it mean to fail? And how can we change our negative view of failure?
Failure is a common mental health topic affecting people of all ages and backgrounds. It can lead to feelings of shame, disappointment, and even depression. But it’s important to remember that failure is a normal part of life. Everyone fails at something at some point.
In this article, we will explore the topic of failure from the perspective of mental health experts. We will learn about the impact of failure on mental health and strategies for changing our negative view of failure.
Failure is an interesting word, and what it means to us differs for everyone. However, for most, we are taught from an early age that failure is a bad thing.
If we think back to learning to walk, we fall many times but continue trying until we can eventually walk. If only we could take that with us through life, we fall(fail), learn from it, and try and try and try again. Somewhere, that changes, and if you reflect on your life, you can often identify where that negative view of failure came from; it links to our beliefs, and we look at the world through the lens of “I’m not clever enough.”
How do we change that negative view of failure 🤔
I have seen sayings such as fail stand for ‘first attempt in learning’; it takes some of the power out of the word.
Then, once, I heard a teacher saying to children about to take a test, “It’s good to fail,” and asking them why. They said, “Because we find out what we need to know,” they can then learn it and try again. I was pleasantly surprised by this. I did wonder why we are brought up with such a negative view of failure. That could lead us into many areas, from parenting style to education to societal pressure.
Take a moment to think about what failure means to you. Where did you learn that from? Is it helpful? If not helpful, try taking the power of the word by associating it with the ‘first attempt in learning.’ Or say the word in a high-pitched squeaky voice or sing it; this takes power out of the word. Then consider changing terms like “I’ve failed” to “What have I learned? What do I need to learn/know?”" this helps you continue to move forward.
Sometimes these negative beliefs are linked to trauma, and if that is the case for you, the EMDR therapy would be helpful."
“People often struggle with a sense of failure, which can become quite a burden for some.
The essential thing is to resist attaching failure to your ego or the static idea about who you are. When we attach an experience of failure to ourselves, we have taken something transient and made it static. That is when we feel the heaviness emotionally.
Instead of using the experience to measure myself, I want instead to measure the experience. How was it? Did I partially succeed? Did I put forth appropriate effort? Were conditions not favorable? Can I adjust if I fail in what I set out to do?
People often fear testing their limits because of fear of failure. If we never fail, we are likely trying to stay safe within our comfort zone. This, unfortunately, makes for a small circle.
I explore this topic further in my book, “The Mindful Path: Combining Psychotherapy and Buddhist Practices.”
“This is such a broad subject and can be based on one’s perception rather than truth.
Do your best to understand what happened, how it happened, and why it happened.
DON’T withdraw from connection with others (don’t isolate yourself) as it may cause shame and depression.”
“Here’s a few points :
Do Acknowledge your effort
Do Be kind to yourself
Do Identify lessons learned
Do Reflect on how you could do things differently in the future
Do Debrief with relevant individual/s where possible.
Do Appreciate any positives
Do Accept that it is okay to feel disappointment, etc., for a little while
Don’t Blanket the entire issue as a failure.
Don’t Beat yourself up over it.
Don’t Let it define you and your capability.
Don’t Stop trying.”
“We first need to look at how one is defining failure. I believe that if someone has done his/her/their best in a situation, the person is successful in that situation, despite the outcome. If, however, the person sees his/her/their success in the outcome, it is easy to feel defeated. Focusing on one’s participation fortifies the person to keep trying until they get a pleasing outcome.”
Failure is a natural part of life, but it doesn’t have to define us. Experts agree that changing our negative view of failure is critical to success. Challenge yourself to change your view of failure. See it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Don’t give up on your goals, even if you experience setbacks.
If someone would benefit from the article, please share it with them.
Want to stay connected? Here’s our Twitter.