FAILURE: The human side of the story
This is funny. We rush and run and then we run some more. We push and shove and shame and defeat. Then there are the lies and the shortcuts that are the snakes in our cupboard. All for that one thing called as “Success”. It is important and hence we are trained for it.
But what is success? Ask this and wait for all the philosophical answers that you can tolerate. Then ask again “What is success?” And keep on asking till you get the one universal definition that rules the world- “ Success is doing better, having better, earning better, vacationing better,spending capacity better than… better than?... better than XYZ…”
I want to stop sometimes, I want to focus on other things that seem to be more important for me- peace, contentment, happiness, companionship, adventure… but it seems that I have been programmed to be in the race and try to be better… they say it is called “SUCCESS”.
And so when I go by this definition of success another definition automatically springs up as a corollary, “If you are not successful – you are a failure” and that is when it hurts. Stand- alone, ‘failure’ may not be so poisonous but it is given to us as an OPPOSITE of success. Thus it becomes a double- edged sword. It hurts further because while the whole system was teaching me how to succeed none ever guided me towards how to deal with failures… for that matter this ‘F’ word was never as much uttered except in utter disgust and contempt. While the parameters of success were being glorified at every stage failure, had no definite destination …it was presumed to be there every time success eluded us.
However, notable fact is that ‘failure’ does not have the same devastating effect on all and some others keep on growing leaps and bounds as if they have never experienced ‘failure’. Well we know they have because none is ever spared of failures. Yet some triumph while others remain ordinary and are often seen sighting their ‘unfortunate’ failures.
Also it can be observed that Adult “failure” is many fold more dangerous and destructive than its juvenile counterpart. Simply because in early life the stakes were mostly material – rank or no rank, prize or no prize, celebration or no… you get the drift…Hence the hurt was mostly short lived. But adult failure is much more beyond what appears- it is not about the promotion, the money the project success or the incentives- it is about the most sensitive parameters of all- SELF ESTEEM.
Now failure is actually a simple phenomenon where one is not able to achieve or perform what one is supposed to or expected to. Examine the statement again. It makes this whole business of ‘failure’ so innocent. But add one small dose of ‘low self- esteem’ to it and the whole thing becomes at once complicated. The difference between the failure of a self- assured person and that of a person with low or negative self- esteem is huge.
*A self -assured person would*:
Ø Not take the failure personally.
Ø He would be able to put it in the context of the time and circumstances.
Ø He would evaluate and be ready for a second try with new strategies and renewed confidence.
Ø For them the failure is just the other side of the coin of success.
On the other hand a person with low self- esteem would:
Ø Look at failure as personal sin, it would incite in him the feelings of guilt, shame, anger, revenge etc.
Ø He would be looking for a scape-goat to put it on.
Ø He may either try to shy away from the whole project in question or create such an environment that others would take it away from him.
Ø He would most probably never accept his share of responsibility for the failure and hence the question of learning from the failure and the prospect of analysis and enthusiastic re start is almost negligible.
Ø He can even be aggressive and spiteful just so to detach attention from the feeling of having failed.
Ø Such a person often live in stress and is known to shirk responsibilities of change and start up as they are afraid of failure.
Ø He usually has negative attitude towards anything new or different and would often discourage boss and colleagues from taking it up.
When observed and understood from this perspective it is obvious that:
Ø Failure is not an absolute phenomenon.
Ø The responses to failure are of bigger concern than the failure itself.
Ø Individuals may respond differently to the same failure depending upon their confidence and self-esteem.
Ø Individuals with low self- esteem can create cascading negativity from even a small or innocent failure.
Ø Self- confident, self-assured individuals can create failures into learning opportunities and use them for higher performance.
To ensure minimal damages due to failure of projects and processes and relationships it is important to:
Ø Work on creating positive and mutually supportive work and home environment.
Ø Create a custom of ‘TIME OUT’ where in each person compulsorily spends quite time with self minus any gadgets- this encourages introspection.
Ø Invest in raising the self- esteem of people by regular and result oriented behavioral trainings and counseling services.
Ø Give opportunities to employees and family members to keep learning and enhancing their personal qualifications and skills in order to boost their self-esteem.
Ø Encourage Mentorship, Coaching and Counseling.
There is a need to remove the fear and contempt from the work ‘failure’ and accept it as a happening on the way to anything. It is the people who are important and they need to be helped and guided rather than judged and ridiculed.
*DR. SAPNA SHARMA*