We all celebrate success. We throw a party, call up friends and family or go out for dinner or a date, or if we’re alone, we let our hair down and unwind with a drink or do something we have been wanting to do, that helps us relax. Some pious folks pray for their achievements and do poojas or make an offering to their Gods. While some lucky ones celebrate by going out on a vacation!
Celebrating success is a natural outcome of our happiness and achievement. It’s a way of rewarding ourselves for our hard work. But what about celebrating failures though? Do we ever give a thought to that?
‘Why?’, you ask. ‘What’s to celebrate in failures?’
Good question! I’ll ask you a question in return, “What does failure teach us?”
It teaches us that we need to do better. It teaches us patience, humility. It teaches us the value of hard work and how to wait for the right opportunity. But most importantly, it teaches us not to give up!
With so many good lessons to teach us, how can failure be bad?
You may counter by pointing out that it feels bad when we fail. Sometimes the failure is a huge setback to our attempts. Yes, it does feel bad, specially if it’s happened to you more than once for the same thing. Most of us take failure very seriously. We become depressed, enraged, desolate, hopeless and withdraw into ourselves. It’s normal to feel that way when we fail.
But say, if you were to enjoy your failure, would it do you any harm? Say if you couldn’t pass an important test that you were preparing for, would it be so bad if, after failing, you throw away your sour mood and declare, ‘Oh, so what?! I’ll try again. Harder!’ And then you proceed to call out your friends for dinner, and your friends tell you the same thing, ‘You’ll do better next time”. And you will! Because you have already made up your mind to try harder again. That serves as positive reinforcement for your brain, the party and your own will to try again. It sends your brain the signal that you do not take defeat as a full stop to your attempts.
Positive reinforcement is a Psychology term that roughly means being awarded for a certain kind of behavior. We frequently use this in everyday life to motivate ourselves. Even organisations have long been using this to motivate their employees to aim higher and get better results. An example is how you tell yourself while slogging for your exams, “Just this one week and then I’ll have all the time in the world”, or how a dog is trained by giving it a treat for good behavior. The benefit of positive reinforcement is that we condition ourselves to perform better in order to get that reward, till it becomes our habit to perform better.
This is what celebrating failure does to you. When your brain looks at failure as a reason to celebrate, it conditions itself to not give in to depressing thoughts and instead looks for that rewarding incident/thing that reinforces its will to strive harder, while enjoying the process of trying again.
Celebrating failure need not come only in the form of a reward or a celebration. You could choose the way you want to celebrate differently than the usual connotations of ‘celebrating’. You could meditate, or try a new activity, or try another way of achieving the same goal. You could tell yourself, ‘Regardless of whether I succeed or fail in this attempt, I will do a certain thing to enjoy myself’. Remember, enjoying yourself while you strive to attain something is as important as making the effort itself. Otherwise the task will seem tedious, and you will be inclined to fail more because of mental tiredness than actual lack of capability.
The aim of celebrating failure is NOT the celebration itself;
It is to overcome the depression of failure and the fear of failing again.
Do the following when you feel you’re becoming depressed over your failure –
- Stop blaming yourself.
- Think of things to calm yourself down, like meditation, or a movie you like, or a hangout you like to go to.
- Surround yourself with people who support you; don’t drive them away.
- Look inwards and identify the reasons why you failed.
- After you have identified the causes, decide to either avoid those causes the next time, or try harder to overcome them, or plan another route.
- Now go ahead, have a blast. Chances are, by the time you come to this step, you will have already overcome your depression.
Our failures are our means to be a better person. They teach us to strive harder, be smarter about our choices and they teach us that success is not an easily earned thing. Think of all those achievers in history who have had successful lives – M.S. Dhoni, Rafael Nadal, Leonardo DiCaprio, Aishwarya Rai, Gita Phogat... Do you think they never faced failures, flops, being shunned by someone, being called ‘inadequate’? But they didn’t stop at their failures. They treated them as lessons and went on to the next project they had. They did not dwell on their past and their mistakes. If they had given up and succumbed to depression, we wouldn’t know their names today.
If you are still not convinced why celebrating failure is better than mourning them, click on this link and watch this inspirational video by Elizabeth Gilbert, the Author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love‘, who talks about how she overcame the fear of writing a book that wouldn’t match up with the success of Eat, Pray, Love, while also discussing how she overcame recurring failures to become a successful writer. I love it when she says, “I love writing more than I hate failing at writing”. That is why she couldn’t give up on writing in spite of her failures, because writing was ‘home’ for her. That is real passion for your work!
Remember, the most difficult part of overcoming failure is the attempt to overcome it. Celebrating it helps in making it easier for you to overcome that fear.
Let not failure defeat you.
Let it be a stepping stone to your next success.
I’ll leave you with the words of the great leader Winston Churchill,
Success consists of going from failure to failure, without loss of enthusiasm.