Why Do We Fail? A Few Reasons Why You Will Fail (And What To Do About It)
Updated: May 4
The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing. ~ Henry Ford
So we all know that failure is how we learn, and that it's how you pick yourself back up that counts. But what about looking at why we fail in the first place: what are the patterns at play? What's causing us to make the same mistakes, or encounter the same problems, again and again?
Failure is often something we don't want to look at too closely; when we meet it, we do what we can to get back up and run as far from it as possible. If we can become a bit more familiar with our failures, we can actually start to see what behavioural patterns we're playing out which are leading us astray.
If we're not able to stop and take a proper look at ourselves in this way, it's quite likely we'll keep tripping up at the same points as we progress in life.
This is where it's useful to break it down: F.A.I.L: a helpful anagram which demystifies failure, and uncovers the unconscious aspects of why we fail.
What causes us to fail?
We all have an innate fear of the unknown – of the chaos that is not the familiar order we look for, and are comfortable with. It's a fear of the future, a fear of change.
On the back of that innate fear, we make assumptions of what may be to come based on how things have been in the past. This in some ways makes us feel more safe: we project onto new situations in the present our experiences from the past which looked similar, so that we can have the comfort of believing we know how things will turn out in the future.
Our capacity for learning and growth based on our experiences (both failures and accomplishments) is dependent on how we interpret the situation. How we interpret the outcome of any situation we face, essentially, is how we decide what we're going to take away from that experience.
When we judge an outcome, we tell ourselves; 'this happened because of... x', or 'the only possible explanation is... y'. Those interpretations or ways of reasoning tend to be recurring. We therefore limit how much we can truly learn and take away from the situation because of how restricted our interpretation is.
L. Limiting Beliefs
Buried deep in our unconscious is a set of ingrained, often inaccurate beliefs which stand in the way of us fulfilling our true potential. We adopt these beliefs in childhood based on early formative experiences, which then inform how we do things, and how we approach different scenarios throughout life.
These limiting beliefs are at work under the surface, yet they impact so much. They form the foundation for our assumptions and interpretations of our experiences, and are directly linked to our fears.
How to stop this process? The answer is: NOTICE. Notice what you think, notice how you feel, when you're faced with different situations.
Here are some questions to ask yourself based on this model, which are useful to come back to whenever you are faced with a new situation where you begin to feel this pattern playing out:
What am I fearful of?
What am I assuming about the current situation?
How am I interpreting it?
Do I have any limiting beliefs?
Are my beliefs true?
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You care about what others think. If you can liberate yourself from worrying about other people's opinions, you can free up a lot of energy to actually start showing up as you, as the best of yourself, at all times.
"Creative ideas happen when you stop thinking about what others will think." - James Clear
You're not clear on why this matters: in everything you do, you want to be clear on why it matters to you; why is this situation, this achievement important to you, why do you care about it? If you're not clear on or you lose sight of why it matters to you... chances are, you're gonna fail.
You're not willing to do the work: looking for a shortcut, silver bullets, magic potions? Well, they simply don't exist! You just have to do the work.
You're not willing to work with others: accept it, you are useless on your own! We all need other people, and you need to be willing and able to work with other people.
You're not willing to learn or develop: if you're stuck in your ways and unwilling to learn new ways of doing or being you're never going to get anywhere new.
You're not willing to change your mind: if you're attached to one perspective, one way of interpreting your reality, you're limiting your potential for learning and scope for growth! Be aware and keep an open mind.
'In change we find our greatest fear, and our untapped potential'
6. No focus? The solution: FOLLOW ONE COURSE OF ACTION UNTIL SUCCESSFUL. Focus on one thing at a time, always; that's how you get to where you wanna get to.
The only failure is the failure to learn from everything that happens to us, good or bad.
Ultimately, what matters is not trying to prevent failure, that's impossible, but it's how we can observe ourselves and our actions, and our way of thinking, in order to learn from every failure we encounter on our paths.
If you're unable to learn from the experiences you have, then you can expect to see the same type of failures or mistakes playing out again and again.
The key is to always be aware and notice: notice what happens to you when you're faced with a new situation. Notice what feelings and thoughts arise.
From that place of awareness you can begin to make changes. Then, when something happens, whether you consider it a failure or an accomplishment, remember to take that step back again to ask yourself what can be learnt from the experience; and that's another notch on your belt.
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash