“I Failed” or “I’m a Failure”: Growth from Adversity

I failed this week.  Does that make me a failure?

Photo: Pixabay/geralt

Last Sunday, I set myself and my readers a challenge:  every time someone asked me a question, I was to answer with a question.  I failed miserably.  I managed to do it twice, out of what must have been hundreds of questions.  What a failure!  How can I possibly go on writing about mindfulness in leadership when I’m so categorically bad at it?

I hoped to be able to write a post this week about how mindfully observing the gap between being asked a question and responding to it, led to more effective coaching for my team – that I would be a better leader.

I hoped to be able to write a post this week about how being in the moment enabled me to respond to my three year old’s incessant questions in a calmer and more thoughtful manner – that I would be a better parent.

I hoped to be able to write a post this week about the way mindfulness led me to a deeper appreciation of my husband, and to be more supportive of him when he asked me questions – that I would be a better spouse.

I hoped to be able to write a post this week about the way reflective practice showed a friend of mine that she had the knowledge and power to solve the issue on her own – that I would be a better friend.

I’m not.  I failed.

But that does not make me a failure.


Failing is a verb.  Failure is a noun.

Failing is something you do…  Failure is something you are.

Failing is Essential – Being a Failure is not

Bicycle Failure
Photo: Pixabay/EME

The easiest way to avoid failing is to only do things that you have already mastered.  To stick to what you know.  To never grow…

Human beings are simply not made that way.  If we were not meant to fail, we would never learn to walk, talk, ride a bicycle, create things, build things or become successful at anything.  They don’t call it “trial and error” for nothing!

“What do you first do when you learn to swim? You make mistakes, do you not? And what happens? You make other mistakes, and when you have made all the mistakes you possibly can without drowning – and some of them many times over – what do you find? That you can swim? Well – life is just the same as learning to swim! Do not be afraid of making mistakes, for there is no other way of learning how to live!”
Alfred Adler

Great sportsmen, inventors, entrepreneurs, entertainers, business leaders and politicians are all united in one thing: that failing does not make you a failure.  In fact, it might be the one thing that propels you toward success, by virtue of picking yourself up and continuing on.

It isn’t Failure if you Learn from it…

So in failing to be sufficiently mindful this week, what did I learn?

  • I learnt that, even after nearly two years of meditation practice, mindfulness is hard
  • I learnt that being in the flow of a conversation isn’t the same as being mindful in it
  • I learnt that there are times when asking a question in response to a question isn’t appropriate or helpful
  • I learnt to be humble
  • I learnt that I may need to be more modest in the scale of the challenge, and schedule more frequent reminders if I want to succeed
  • I learnt that I still have plenty to learn (about everything)
  • I learnt that the human desire to be helpful (by responding to questions) runs very deep
  • I learnt that the small success I did have (twice out of hundreds!!) is a huge motivator to keep practicing
  • I learnt that questions are powerful
  • I learnt never to blame my failings on somebody else

And perhaps most important of all…

  • I learnt that failing can, in fact, be a success.  Provided that you learn from it.


Did you take on last week’s challenge?

How did you find it?   I’d love to hear how you got on.  Leave a comment below.

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