I failed at my first half marathon, I failed at staying pregnant the first time, I failed at getting promoted along with my peers in my first job, I continue to fail at staying patient with my husband at every disagreement. Last night, I failed at putting my son to bed at his usual bed time and the list of my failures goes on.
It wasn’t until a few months back that I actually realized how quick we are to use the word “failure” in our every day conversations. There are numerous quotes and articles on why failure is good and what failure teaches us (which absolutely have their merits) but I have been reflecting on whether we even should call all the above events and many others “failure” in the first place and the impact this labeling has on the way we live our days and measure our lives.
The word failure sounds harsh, negative, incredibly self critical (at least when used in the way in the example above). It feels like a huge blow on our character. Sometimes, we are very quick to call small mistakes as failures.
Does it have to be that way? Do we need to label “failures” as “failures”? Can’t we take a more compassionate approach when things don’t happen the way we want them to? Can we take the time to pause and reflect and savor the journey instead of quickly applying binary labels of failure and success? Do we really have complete control over every outcome to use the word “I” at each of these so called failures?
Take for example my experience with my son last night. Since getting back to work after my maternity leave, I have been trying to put my son to bed at 8 pm so that I can go to bed around 9 pm and get 6-8 hours of sleep while still trying to nurse my baby every few hours, but yesterday night was different. Despite my trying patiently, he didn’t want to sleep until about 10:30 pm or so which meant I didn’t sleep until 11 pm and he woke up more frequently than normal and I was groggy and sleep deprived at work. My impulse would have been to call myself a failure for not putting him down in time but this time I tried a slightly different approach.
Mindfulness – I tried to stay with my emotions and feel the discomfort of things not happening my way. I felt negative and uncomfortable but I tried to simply witness what I was going through instead of jumping at conclusions and judging my own self.
Rethink my words – I made a conscious effort about my choice of words and stayed away from failure. Things didn’t go as per plan but I chose different words, baby didn’t sleep on time, I didn’t get enough sleep, my work day was a little difficult but again, I wasn’t a failure.
Savor the journey – Yes, both baby and I didn’t get enough sleep but we spent some time bonding with each other nursing and cuddling together. I got a chance to practice mindfulness and stay patient even though I was tired and wanted to sleep. I learnt a little more about my baby and his needs and hopefully that can help me next time!
Surrender – I reminded myself that I only have some control over when my baby sleeps and eventually over many other choices my baby makes. I can do my part, take conscious action but despite my efforts, things will pan out the way they are meant to be and I cannot control everything. Knowing this, it makes absolutely no sense to call myself a failure.
What do you label as failures? Are you quick to label every mistake or less than a perfect outcome as a failure? What tools and techniques work in managing your relationship with “failures”? Come, add your voice and join the conversation!