Our successes and failures are instrumental in formulating our identity. Achievements often define our sense of self, so when we fail, we feel the need to redefine ourselves, which can be very unsettling. Yet failure is a temporary state and can, in fact, become the springboard to future successes.
Being an overachiever: gift or curse?
The perfect wife, husband, mother, father or employee. Overachievers feel constant pressure to succeed in all aspects of life. While this pressure is often self-imposed, it can be rooted in childhood rivalries or a need to please demanding parents. While having goals and seeking success is essential for living a meaningful life, the very nature of goal-setting holds the inherent risk of failure.
Feelings of failure
According to motivational speaker Tanya Vandenberg, “It is easy to wrap your idea of yourself up in what you DO rather than in what you are, especially for those who drive themselves hard.” Overachievers tend to give themselves milestones that measure their sense of self-worth. “When the expected achievement fails to materialise, that person then feels personally worthless,” says Vandenberg. She further argues that when failure is not dealt with properly, this sense of worthlessness can lead to:
• Anger: either directed at yourself or others in an attempt to shift the blame.
• Depression or despair.
• Feelings of inadequacy.
• Self-destructive behavior.
An inability to effectively deal with failure can therefore be extremely damaging.
By dwelling on your failures, you can become stuck in a negative pattern governed by the mistakes of the past. Your mind is more powerful than you think. Successful thoughts attract success whereas focusing on failure will have the opposite effect. “The frame of mind necessary for success – optimism, faith, perseverance – can only be arrived at when you leave the past behind and make up your mind to LEARN from mistakes without being ruled by them,” explains Vandenberg.
Coping with failure
One failure is not the portal to a lifetime of lost dreams. It is through proactively dealing with failure that we realise the value of success. Vandenberg offers the following tips for coping with failure:
• Remember that absolutely every human being has failed at something at some time in their lives.
• Draw up a list of your successes to provide daily inspiration and focus.
• Be your own cheerleader.
• Actively look for the lesson in the failed situation. Eg: I trusted the wrong person – how can I learn to be more observant and become a better judge of character?
• Realise that failure is a temporary state and it is the way that we react to failure that defines us, makes is stronger and allows us to develop our true potential.
Move on successfully
“There’s no disgrace in failure. Indeed the only failure there is, is failing to move on from our mistakes,” says Vandenberg. “Any suffering or mistake, can be valuable when we don’t waste it, when we CHOOSE to learn rather than to be scarred.”
Tanya Vandenberg is the creative director of Three Ring Circus, a company that does educational and motivational shows for schools.