Helping Your Life Work
September 1, 2009
Volume 5, Issue 9

'Take Chances, Make Mistakes and Get Messy!'

In the lexicon of current catchphrases, 'epic fail' tends to irk me. It's not just that the wording is grammatically incorrect; it's more that it has succeeded in magnifying common everyday mistakes into colossal blunders, leaving many of us feeling guilty, stupid, incompetent and useless. One definition in the Urban Dictionary describes it as "A mistake of such monumental proportions that it requires its own term in order to successfully point out the unfathomable shortcomings of an individual or group." Do we really need to see our mistakes in such extreme terms?

What does it mean to fail? When a student fails a test, does that make her a failure? When a business or marriage fails, does that negate all the successful years that preceded the end? Are we responsible for a congenital heart defect that leads to heart failure?

With the start of school being upon us, the word 'failure' may be weighing heavily on the minds of many students who may not feel that they measure up, not only intellectually, but also socially or physically. They may be dreading that first test, gym class or fall dance, knowing that they will be exposed. Growing up with the self-concept of 'failure' is not so easily shaken later on in life. So it is important to challenge these concepts before they take hold.

We have all failed in our lives and we will continue to have failures in the future, because we are not perfect. It is about how we respond to our failures that makes the difference. In the words of Barack Obama, "Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it's not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won't. It's whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere."

So as we or our children embark upon another school year or return to work after our vacations, let's remind ourselves that failure is inevitable, that we cannot succeed without failure and that we lose more by not trying than by failing. Let's teach our children that it's okay to make mistakes and fail. Let's help them learn to pick themselves up and dust themselves off after they fail. Let's remember when we make mistakes at work or in relationships that we need to forgive ourselves for our mistakes and our failings. After all, we are only human.

For examples of famous people who have gone from failure to success, please check out: www.youtube.com - Famous Failures  and www.youtube.com - "Failure"

And many thanks to my daughter, Jane, for her suggestion of the title this month, taken from the words of Ms. Frizzell of the Magic School Bus.

Barbara Fish, M.Ed.
Personal and Career Counsellor
416 498-1352
“Helping Your Life Work”

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