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The Courage to Fail

February could easily be called the relapse month. The bad habits we were resolute to break in January have started to creep back. The goals we were determined to reach as the year began now seem less attainable.

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What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything? – Vincent Can Gogh

As you begin to feel you’re not making headway, as roadblocks sprout up around you, oftentimes the response is to stop. What else are you supposed to do? You’re about to fail and nobody wants to fail.

Why not? What’s really so bad about failure?

Webster’s defines failure as: 1. The condition of not achieving the desired end. 2. The condition of being insufficient or falling short. 3. A cessation of proper function or performance.

Nowhere in any of the definitions given for failure do you read that it’s a permanent state or lifelong condition. Failure is fleeting. It’s a condition that ceases to exist once you try again. Worrying about the mistakes you’ve made, fearing to make another attempt, only prolongs what should be a brief and passing situation.

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Author and management expert Dr. Laurence J. Peter tells us, “The great question is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”

Failure should be viewed as a point of reevaluation. What changes need to be made? What additional steps should be taken? Failure is only failure for as long as you let it prevent you from moving forward.

Experiencing failure can even be motivating. It can encourage us to try harder. As author and playwright George Bernard Shaw found, “When I was young, I observed that nine out of every 10 things I did were failures, so I did 10 times more work.”

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We should see our mistakes and missteps not as failures, but as first drafts – something that we need to continue to work on and improve. Like Shaw, most of what we try won’t work. We will fall down far more often than not, but failure is in the staying down – not in the falling down.

French philosopher Teilhard De Chardin wrote, “It doesn’t matter if the water is cold or warm if you are going to have to wade through it anyway.” For the next 10 months – and for the months and years after that – you’ll find yourself wading through water. The victory comes not from overcoming the water, because you’ll always encounter more somewhere down the road. The victory is in the undertaking, in making the attempt.

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Always give yourself another chance. Success lies in having the courage to fail.

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