Finding great results where you least expect

Success and failure exist in balance

I’m currently in Bangkok on business and I’m impressed with the ingenuity of the local community to make a living. Very friendly, always appearing happy they can show us all that success can lie in many places.  It made me think about where we find success and where our results come from.

We encourage our children to play to win and often reward results over effort. Even if we don’t all share the need to be at the top, most people are taught from an early age to value the experiences that lead to positive outcomes and to avoid those that lead to anything short of that. Yet, success isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.

If we set our lives on simmer and only set challenges that we know we can achieve, how do we ever hope to grow? Are we successful if we can easily achieve every goal we set? What we are doing in setting the bar too low is opening ourselves up for huge disappointments in the future.

Despite our best efforts to control all aspects of our lives there’s a big world out there in which we must interact. In the workplace, with our family and in society we’re frequently set challenges that are not of our own design. Almost invariably we’ll face a challenge we can’t meet and then what will we do? Though failure isn’t something we necessarily plan for, there are times when it leads us to greater heights than we might otherwise achieve.

People who are too focused on success can be so concerned about holding on to the positive results they have achieved that they never stretch themselves.  As we progress through life and careers, we are less and less likely to take on difficult tasks for fear of losing what we have.

This may stop us going for a promotion we’re suited too or not taking on a new hobby or recreation because the emotional trauma of not succeeding can be devastating to our self image. We will no longer ‘put ourselves out there’ or accept that success takes time. We have become, as the Eagles sang in Hotel California, ‘prisoners of our own device’.

Our ‘device,’ in my opinion, is to reflect our active experience in the world and to move forward as social creatures, in purpose and action. This is the process of being alive. It has neither beginning nor end. It is an end in itself.

The upshot is that success can breed conservatism and a tendency to hold on to what you’ve got. There’s a balance here. No success breeds apathy. Some success breeds the confidence to try new things; some failure breeds the wisdom to try again. It can be good to take some calculated risks from time to time. This kind of risk taking applies to exploring new opportunities and expanding your horizons.

It’s not necessary to take a huge leap into the unknown or to take on things with reckless abandon. Instead, there are steps you can take to challenge yourself without putting it all on the line.

 Allow yourself the luxury of not having to be the absolute best at everything. Then try something new. The strategy of not fearing failure can stretch you outside your comfort zone and open your eyes to new possibilities that will ultimately lead to a happier and more fulfilled life. Are you willing to allow yourself to fail, even at something that doesn’t really matter? Does it really concern you if others don’t see you as having a 100% strike rate every time?

Here’s an example of where failure is good.

I have been going to the gym for many years and each time I go my goal is failure. The type of failure I’m after is muscle failure. If I work my muscles to fatigue, they’ll strengthen. But if I approached my training on a day today basis of just going through the motions without trying to fail, my muscles will adapt to my level of effort and won’t grow.

The same applies with life. Do you need to up your weights and push yourself a little further to grow? Are you prepared to be a little sore in the morning from the effort?

You can use failure to benefit your life.  Here’s how:

Don’t be obsessed with holding onto what you’ve got. Instead of trying to protect the successes you have achieved, look for ways to challenge yourself beyond your comfort zone.

If you’ve become discouraged by your failures, don’t allow this to make you feel bad about yourself. Instead, realise that each challenge you’ve taken has helped you to grow and expand your knowledge, expertise and personal achievement.

Remember it’s not always easy to break out of our self imposed limitations. Often to get out of the box we have to kick the hell out of it. That takes times, persistence and effort.

Take small steps toward change. If you want to run a marathon, try running around the block first.

There is great satisfaction from making progress toward a goal. We have heard many times that we should enjoy the journey. It’s true, because sometimes the destination may be somewhere quite different to where we thought we were going. It might even be better.

Change for the sake of change is not the goal. But not being afraid to fall down once in a while can give you exactly the type of motivation that will help you find your own version of success and fulfilment.

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