O Failure Where Art Thou?

Failure is a concept that doesn’t feel good.  Whether failing to meet a goal, failing to perform in front of others, or failing at a task that seems achievable, the feelings brought about by failure remind you that you aren’t good enough.  It’s a reminder of the need to improve, a reminder of the need for continued hard work, a reminder that you aren’t your best self.

According to Google, the definition of failure is this:

Failure /ˈfālyər/

Noun.

  1. Lack of success.

  2. An unsuccessful person, enterprise, or thing.

Fine, the English language is allowed to define the term however it wants.  But that doesn’t mean that your definition of failure has to be the same.  This article is meant to get you to understand that failure, when experienced periodically, is not scary.

Contrary to popular belief – failure, when experienced periodically, is actually an extremely effective motivator, and a reminder that making progress towards a long-term goal takes time.

There is a quote in one of my favorite books of all time Mental Toughness Training for Sports, by James E. Loehr.  In this book , Loehr explains how feelings of frustration and self-judgment arise from the creation of pressure.  Pressure, Loehr argues, is not an inherent property of a situation, rather it is a human created property that actually doesn’t exist.  He writes,

Situations are not nervous or anxious – people are.  The sooner you accept that pressure comes from within and not from without, the sooner you can start shutting it down.

So if pressure itself doesn’t actually exist, then why does failing feel so bad?  It may have something to do with the following:

  • Because we are taught at a young age that failure is a state of existence that we should aim to avoid.

  • Because we fear judgment from others.

  • Because self-judgment that arises from failure is often worse than failing itself.

  • Because you don’t want to admit to the world that you didn’t succeed.

Remember, failure is only considered “bad” when interpreted as a negative state of being.  If instead failure is integrated into your life on a periodic basis, failure is actually something to look forward to, an opportunity to laugh, a reminder to stay humble, and a motivator for continued hard work.

For me and many people I know, failure has nothing to do with self-judgment, and acts instead as a reason to get better.  I’ve taken away the pressure of failing, so that now it’s something to laugh at and enjoy.

I often make it a point to fail on a weekly basis, and certainly on a monthly basis.  Every month, I outline some tasks to accomplish, knowing that I will not succeed at accomplishing all.  Most importantly, I look forward to the giggle I will get at the tasks I didn’t even come close to achieving.

When it comes to lifestyle design, failure is inevitable.  Effectively changing your lifestyle for the better involves changing many aspects of your daily existence, including (but not limited to):

  1. Food intake

  2. Activity level

  3. Stress level

  4. Emotional happiness

  5. Mental happiness

How could you possibly expect to succeed at making changes in each category without failing from time to time?  It’s simply impossible.

Here are examples of tasks I that I tried to accomplish in April of 2013:

  1. 20 continuous jump rope “double unders” – FAILED

  2. Eating a salad containing 2 whole habanero peppers – FAILED

  3. Winning a soccer game (following 365+ days of continued losses) – SUCCESS

  4. Being in a conversation AND eavesdropping on the one next to me simultaneously- FAILED

  5. Furnishing my apartment with a high top dining table – FAILED

  6. Telling 10 people how important they are to me – SUCCESS

  7. Enjoying the smell of the 24th St Bart station in San Francisco – FAILED

As you can see, of the 7 ridiculous tasks that I outlined for myself for the month of April, I only achieved 2 of them.  The beauty is that I didn’t judge myself even for a second.  Because I went into the process knowing that I could fail at all 6, the fact that I succeeded at 2 of them was a huge success!  Instead of being angry that I still can’t eat 2 habanero peppers for dinner, or that I can’t jump rope like a madman, I was instead excited that I had made progress towards both goals, and instead

Your homework:

Create 5 tasks to accomplish next month that are not all achievable, aim to fail at 4 out of 5.  Check back in with this list on a weekly basis, then update it after 30 days.  Celebrate any form of success towards a monthly goal, whether complete or partial.  And remember, these tasks can cover any aspect of your life, diversify them as much as possible.

Tasks that I want to achieve over the next month include:

  1. Insert task #1 here

  2. Insert task #2 here

  3. Insert task #3 here

  4. Insert task #4 here

  5. Insert task #5 here

And finally, we modify the definition of failure to read the following:

Failure /ˈfālyər/

Noun.

A way to ensure the constant pursuit of challenging tasks

Something that should happen on a frequent basis, to keep you from changing for the better.

A cause for celebration.  Something to appreciate.

Something that you can videotape and show your friends.

A GREAT excuse for a celebratory dinner party.

Your new best friend.

About The Author

Cyrus Khambatta

Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 22, I have spent over a decade learning the fundamentals of nutrition at the doctorate level. My goal is to share my knowledge of practical nutrition and fitness with people with prediabetes, type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is an OPPORTUNITY to attain excellent health. Reversing the effects of insulin resistance can be a fun and enjoyable process if the right system is in place. That's why I've spent over 10 years developing a rock solid system that can minimize blood glucose variability and insulin resistance.

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