As we rapidly approach the end of another year, this is the time we look back at the past 12 months, and assess our success.
How will we view our achievements? A core presupposition in the neuroscience field is that there is no failure, there is only feedback. Another variation on that theme is that there are no mistakes; there are only outcomes. If that is the case we should accept and embrace our so called failures and mistakes and mine them for the learning they contain. We should also be aware that our setbacks and successes are simply two sides of the one coin.
The implication here is that the results we get when we attempt to reach our various goals in life may be interpreted in different ways. And so long as we are committed to learning and growing from each experience it doesn’t matter what a particular short term outcome may be because course correction is simply a normal part of what it is to be human. Depending upon the particular goal, it may require more effort or different actions to accomplish it. In many instances, our ultimate long term success is not a function of immediate results; it is a result of many short well focused sprints and an ongoing feedback loop of learning. And sometimes we may need to try something we suspect may not work in order to get the feedback necessary to progress further along the path.
So why is it that so many people adopt a sense of ‘failure’ if a particular action doesn’t work out? I am of the mind that it’s the result of our culture which seems to be more and more about the need for instant gratification. Because if we quit once it is then more likely that we will quit again and any behaviour that is continuously reinforced eventually becomes a conditioned aspect of our human experience. One way we can approach this issue of failure is to give ourselves permission to fail. In fact if we don’t allow ourselves to fail, failure becomes more and more loaded with meaning.
This prevents it from being part of our learning process, the trial and error learning we used as children when we first began to make our way in the world. It prevents failing from being part of the feedback process so vital to help us to refine our performance and eventually succeed. Suddenly failure becomes so loaded with emotion; our fear of it prevents us from succeeding. Giving ourselves permission to fail sidesteps any concern we might otherwise feel about performance. When we allow this, we don’t fail. It releases us from the fear of failure.
If we don’t allow ourselves to make mistakes, we will live a life that’s bland and grey. Acceptable risks can lead to incredible results. An amazing life can unfold if you allow it.