Ramadan Reflections: On Failure
I know failure with a strange intimacy, and even though we hear everybody say how failure is part of life, it’s hard to accept mine even years later. It plays into so many aspects of our being. We can fail at achievements and fail at our roles in life, whether as an employee or a friend. There was a time in my life when I thought that failure was the defining aspect of me. And yet, years later, still not fully disgesting inevitable failures, things look so different and better. Let me tell you this, what they say about failure is true. We learn and grow when we fail. But glorifying failure when it hurts the most is the worst way to go about pain. It makes what we go through feel insignificant. It is always better to understand failure and accept it through knowledge. So let me walk you through different aspects of failure you might not be aware of.
1. Failure makes goals more difficult to reach
And I mean “goal” quite literally. A study shows that football/soccer teams that were scored less felt the goal and getting the ball into the goal was more unreachable. In simpler terms, failure tricks our brain into believing that reaching the “goal” is impossible. We call this distortion. The goal was as reachable as it was before you didn’t score. Unless you practice hard and have experience points that prove you, you can still win; you will have a more challenging time ignoring the new information your brain is forced to process. But you should; maybe ignoring is too much to ask, but it is essential to remember that losing is part of the process. Whether it is a game or not, it is getting into a university you want.
2. Failure makes you mistrust your capabilities
As much as failure makes you think a “literal” goal is out of reach, it also ticks you into believing that your abilities to get there are not good enough. As a result, we focus less, mistrust our moves more, and feel weaker than we are. Knowing it and correcting it in our minds is crucial because otherwise, you will devalue your abilities and previous wins.
3. Failure makes you think you are helpless.
In our minds, we are often helpless, and we tend to underestimate our resourcefulness. Failure causes emotional injuries. Your mind responds to this injury by trying to get you to give up so you can rest. In doing so, you are also feeling helpless. By making you think as if there is nothing you can do to succeed in a specific task, your mind might start avoiding future failures, and there will never collect new experiences, or in other words, further information that proves it wrong. You can refocus your mind. Knowing that everyone before you has failed in something meaningful is a great way to start.
4. A single failure can create a “fear of failure.”
Some of us are convinced that we fear succeeding or fear the spotlight. The truth is, they don’t. It is, in fact, a fear of failure. On unconscious, we store the information that we are not any better than those who have already reached what we want. Not addressing those fears means less likely to achieve our goals. The unconscious focus is to avoid failure instead of securing future success.
5. Failure can cause to you self sabotage
Remember, failure is painful and can affect our lives for longer phases in our lives. So, one of the most common ways to protect ourselves from that is self-sabotage. We create excuses and situations that justify our “failure” instead of taking accountability and ownership of the problem. This kind of behavior often turns into self-fulfilling prophecies because they sabotage our efforts and increase the likelihood of our failures. For example, you might think you are unlovable and will never open up in a relationship, ultimately causing it to fail before it even starts. You say it’s because you aren’t lovable—a vicious cycle.
6. Parents can teach the fear of failure
If you are a parent, listen up. Fear of failing can be taught to our children. If there are certain things we are scared to reach or do, we condition our children to feel the same about outcomes and goals. Therefore, it is important to check our beliefs in ourselves and our self-worth to understand what we do not want our children to feel. If you are afraid of swimming because you think you will never be able to float, let your kid swim anyway. And better yet, try anyway. You will likely float. It’s all practice.
7. Willpower is a muscle
You read that right. Like any muscle, the mind can get fatigued and overused. When willpower fails you, it is because it is overworked and undernourished. This is why psychologists say eating healthy is important. Sleep well is essential. This is also why crash diets do not work. When our mind gets tired, we are more likely to stop the diet and get back to where we started. Balance is key. Give your body rest, so your mind can rest. Feed your body right, so your mind can reenergize as well.
8. The heartiest way to respond to failure is to focus on the little things
Psychology says (I always wanted to use the term in the proper context) that failure can make you feel demoralized, helpless, hopeless, and anxious. But you CAN fight back. Break down tasks or goals into small, reachable milestones. Control your day by planning it and following up. Go through a list of aspects in your control and those that are not. Figure out how you can improve on the things you can control. It could be improving a skillset or working on your relationship with open communication. Accumulating knowledge on how to improve is only one a few clicks and books away. Feeling control is the antidote to feeling helpless, and it will motivate you to try again. It will also minimize the likelihood of failure and ultimately will lead to success.