Trying and failing are a part of life. But what if we didn’t see failure as a negative but as a way to learn and grow? What if we expected to fail sometimes and used it as motivation to try even harder?
That’s the mindset shift that can lead to triumph. When you stop seeing failure as an endpoint but instead as a stepping stone on the path to success, you open yourself up to new possibilities.
Failure as a mental state
Failure is nothing more than a psychological construct of our own making. Rather than viewing failure as an endpoint, it can be seen as the result of having high expectations that you didn’t meet.
Failure does not have to be seen as an unacceptable outcome – it can be embraced and learned from. We understand that high expectations create hurdles to jump over, and we can only truly learn and grow through facing them. If we view failure positively as an opportunity to gain experience and develop greater understanding, our failures can become essential stepping stones towards success. Learning to recognize the difference between not meeting expectations and an actual failure is a key to understanding how we react in everyday situations.
Failure rarely exists.
It is true failure rarely exists in the world around us. Your goal may have been to do something, literally anything. For brevity, let us say it was to complete 100 push-ups.
So, you made it to 37 and are exhausted. You stopped. In your mind, you failed the task at hand. But in reality, you didn’t fail. You just had an unrealistic expectation of performance based on your current level of capabilities.
But what does that mean?
It means you are still progressing. You accomplished some push-ups, and there are two distinct options to move forward on.
Option 1: You lower your expectations to 37 push-ups.
Option 2: You adjust your input to accomplish the goal.
Option 2 requires a daily training regiment, proper diet, strength, and speed training. Option 2 is a long-term game to adjust the input necessary to achieve. This is where we grow. This is where we improve.
You did not fail. You had a lofty goal and now have a good assessment of where to go moving forward.
What if you can’t control inputs?
In the example provided above, failure is a deeply personal connection. It is easy for us to be motivated and alter our inputs on personal endeavors. But what if it is a group project? How do I control the input alterations of other people?
Effective management of expectations is key to preventing future failure. Setting realistic expectations and ensuring that everyone involved in a project understands them is critical for success. It can be beneficial for everyone involved to review the expectations and ensure they are met constantly, so you can. When individuals know what’s expected of them, they will be better equipped to manage their time and resources toward reaching the goal. Communicating these expectations, updating regularly, providing feedback, and easily monitoring progress are essential steps toward avoiding future letdowns.
In this frame, we are choosing Option 1. We are adjusting our expectations to something that can be achieved without overreaching our ability to perform. It is setting the success rate just above what is currently capable. It is more frequent testing of achievement to create smaller goals or steps to execute.
Sometimes no expectations are better.
Not having expectations can open up a world of possibilities for success. Without the burden of anticipation or preconceived notions, we can explore new avenues that broaden our horizons and lead to engaging and sometimes unexpected results. For example, if you’re looking for a job without expecting any specific outcome, you are more likely to find one that you love, and that will further develop your existing skills and strengths. Similarly, suppose you’re planning an event and have no expectations of how it should unfold. In that case, chances are you will come up with creative and unique ideas where everyone involved gets something beneficial out of the experience. Ultimately not having expectations removes constraints and barriers so that you can explore everyone’s pathway to accomplishment.
It should be noted that not having expectations should only be reserved for the beginning stages of a project. Once a path has been decided, expectations should follow. Expectations are a measurement of progress. True failure rarely exists, but having the ability to change direction quickly is a must.