No one likes it yet we all do it. You set a goal in the present and then at some future time you don’t follow through as you had planned. Getting up early, passing an exam, calling someone back, playing an instrument, eating healthy, cleaning your house, the list goes on.
We give a lot of press to success, but tend to sweep failure under the rug like its not a part of the process. The truth is, until the day comes where you execute flawlessly on every task you commit to, you need to deal with failure, so you better get used to it.
Ray Dalio, the founder of one of the most successful hedge-funds in the US, has this to say:
“Embracing your failures is the first step toward genuine improvement; it is also why “confession” precedes forgiveness in many societies. If you keep doing this you will learn to improve and feel the pleasures of it.”
So how do we get good at dealing with failure? The same way you get good at anything in life: Practice. That sounds counter-intuitive, practicing failure? Yes. Not trying to fail, of course, but practicing your response to failure, when it inevitably occurs.
I can think of no easier gateway to practicing failure than to try and hold attention on the breath.
A 30 second exercise for you: Go ahead, right now, close your eyes and try and take just 10 full breaths without having a thought beyond the breath. Count ’1′, on the inhale, ’2′ on the exhale, ’3′ on the inhale, etc…
Did you make it to 10? Did your mind wander from the breath? When you noticed it wandered, how did you respond? With harsh judgement: “this is difficult, I’m not good at this” or “this is stupid, why am I doing this?” With observation: “wow, it’s not so easy to keep the mind on the breath…” Or did you simply return to counting?
Continuously practicing your response to failure can allow you to more skillfully respond to all the times when you do fail. This may cause you to discern helpful responses (understanding the ‘root causes’ behind the failure) from unhelpful ones (berating yourself for failing).
It’ll take time, but with practice you can become a master at failing…and perhaps anything else you put your mind to.