Every year it’s the same. Out comes the sun after a long winter and the next thing you know, it’s exam season. A few orals and the flurry of practical projects start the ball rolling, heralding the appearance of pinched faces and tight smiles at my door. Leaving & Junior Cert parents are feeling the pressure! Bemused teens are barraged with well-meant encouragement, ‘Brains to burn, that fella, if only he’d use them!’
Paralyzed by fear, the best student flounders in the exam hall, the most fluent Gaelgoir can’t string a sentence together – hours of grinds obliterated in a blur of misery.
Imagine if kids were free to fail, and taught how to succeed at failing? What, I wonder, if failing were regarded as an interesting detour, a puzzle to be solved? All to make succeeding easier …
So much energy is invested in preventing failure and it’s dire fallout, that few kids are free to see beyond it. Failure reminds me of a Hologram, kept in place with worry, anxiety and stress. There’s a myth that if we worry enough about failure, things might turn out better than expected. Obtuse reasoning, by my reckoning.
How many people comfort themselves with the old chestnut ‘We’re all worriers in our family – it’s the only thing that fires us up!’
Thomas Edison is one of many good examples I never, ever, mention to students. He spent a lot of time getting electric bulbs wrong, until he got them right. Not a man to settle for failure, he worked with it to fuel success. Setbacks are part of life, it’s hard to avoid them and they have their uses. Bouncing back from failure makes life easier and more interesting.
Why do some people excel at this? I’ve noticed seven traits shared by those who know how to succeed at failing and take it in their stride.
7 ways to succeed at failing
View the world optimistically and you get the most out of life. Know that one failure is a screenshot and not the whole movie.
2. Believe you can solve your own problems
This confidence sets you up to take stock … and then take steps to change a situation. No-one knows you better than you do so dust off the user’s manual.
People who succeed at failing tell the funniest stories. They rarely take themselves too seriously. Humour lends a new perspective to events and rallies helpful people to help and assist.
4. Staying in tune
Emotional awareness keeps you from being totally engrossed in your own story and getting stuck there. Empathy with others keeps you in the loop socially and professionally. And it’s only polite!
5. Drowning sorrows
Feeling bad is horrible but it doesn’t last. Drink and drugs anaesthetize feelings causing inertia.
6. Dear Santa Claus
Aim high for success – ask, and see what you can get away with! Know your strengths and weaknesses.
7. Step away from blame
Succeeding at failing lets you reconfigure and get ready to risk a new venture. Take responsibility for your part and accept that you’re a good person – who can do better next time. Forensics and blame hold anger in place and delay the natural healing that allows change.
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