"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to try just one more time." -Thomas Edison.
Fail Until You Succeed
Have you ever set out to achieve something new? You find out what it is you want to do, you make up your mind, set the goal, tell the people around you, and you go after it! Exciting, right!? Well, what happens when the next step in the process is failure? Not very exciting anymore, is it? Many run from failure in sports, career, relationships, or just everyday life like it’s the plague. They hide from it to the point that they stop challenging themselves because of the potential for failure. They stop sharing their aspirations with the people around them.
Why is failure so bad? If you ask most athletes if they ever failed in their sport, big or small, the answer will always be “yes.” Failure is inevitable. I have failed a number of times in track and field. Some failures stand out more than others. Some are old news and some still fall fresh on my mind. Failing to qualify for the Commonwealth Games this year—my most recent unaccomplished goal—is still very fresh.
I started my 2014 season with the main goal of qualifying for the Commonwealth games. In order to do so, I needed to hit the time standard, show up to Nationals, and compete well. I did neither of these things. I did not even run at Nationals this year. My season came to an end a month before Nationals when I was unable to continue. During my short campaign I did not even come close to the qualifying time I had to run. Part of that was because we were trying to train through some things before we realized that we could not continue. As a result, the goals I set out to achieve at the beginning of the year were left unaccomplished.
“I failed.” Those two words circled my head all day, every day, long after my season ended. It was all I could think about. Then the thoughts switched to “I am a failure.” The way we form our thoughts on failure is where I believe the problem is. Although “I failed” and “I am a failure” may seem similar at first glance, I see a significant difference.
When I look back over my life and my sporting career, the times where I have learned the most about myself as an athlete, and as a person, emerge from the times where things have not gone as expected. With each failure, a lesson was learned—a lesson that helped prepare me for the next undertaking. It is almost as though failures turn into successes further down the road.
After an unsuccessful effort to achieve a goal, we all have one of two conclusions to make: we either failed or we are failures. These two conclusions lead down two very different paths. One leads to lessons learned, future successes, and further attempts to achieve personal goals. The other path leads to fear, mediocrity, and a humdrum existence.
Deciding you are a failure changes the way you look at challenges. Instead of seeing a challenge as something exciting that can help you grow, you will see it as an inevitable disappointment and failure. You will stop sharing your goals and dreams with the people around you and you will stop going after new goals altogether. Not only does this rob yourself of new opportunities, it robs the people around you of the excitement that comes from watching you pursue something important to you. Thinking of yourself as a failure becomes who you are. There are too many exciting things in the world to miss out on if you conclude that life’s challenges are “not worth it” because “I’m only going to fail, anyway.” You might fail, but there is something so beautiful in the pursuit of your goal. It is the pursuit that changes us, not the end result.
Failing to qualify for the Commonwealth Games was not the first time I failed in track and field, and I can guarantee it will not be my last experience with failure. I failed this season, but I know I would not have even had a 2014 season if I had given up after any one of my many, previous failures. I won’t lie and say I’m happy with this year’s result, however. I obviously would have rather accomplished my goal and made Commonwealth Games. But that is not what happened. I do not hope for failure, but when it comes I refuse to run from it. Regardless of past failures and inevitable future failures, I am going to continue to pursue my goals with passion and determination.
Check out Christie's previous article: Tiny Hurdler Defies Gigantic Odds.