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I’m Finding It Hard to Move On From Failure. How Do I Work With This?

Rich shares helpful reflections and practices to dissolve the pain we can sometimes feel in relation to failure.

Hi, it's Rich here. I've been asked to answer the question, I'm finding it hard to move on from failure. How do I work with this? Yeah, that's a tough one, the experience of failure. And I think using and understanding that phrase, the experience of failure, is really key because look, you're not a failure. Doesn't mean you are a failure and that's kind of what you amount to as a person.

It's actually the experience of failure that we're talking about here. This sort of feeling sense that we might've let someone down or perhaps not met a goal or a mark we set for ourselves, or perhaps that others have set for us. Regardless, no matter what it is, it's an experience of failure. It doesn't mean in totality, you, as a person are a failure. It's a really important distinction because it always means that there's opportunities to have a different kind of experience to either try again or try something different.

Let me give you three tips here about how to work with this experience of failure. So, number one, I suggest to stop the time travelling, wondering about what you did wrong or what could go wrong in the future. The second is to notice the narrative you tell yourself about this experience of failure. That means the sort of tape loop or the story that's playing in your head about what this means for you as a person. So just notice that narrative.

And the third is really to connect to the present. In the present moment, even if you've had an experience of failure, what's present? What's really present? Now it could be a feeling that isn't so great. I've had those too. When I felt like I failed at something and had an experience of failure, it did not feel good. But if I stay with it, in other words, if I stay in the present and really try to understand and name and take note of the sensations and feelings I'm experiencing, something interesting happens, which is that you realize it's a feeling and feelings come and go.

And that there are other feelings that are also available. So, for example, when I left my career of many years at Google and I started my own company, Wisdom Labs, for a few days there, at least, if not a few months, actually, there were moments where I felt like perhaps I was doing something bad. Perhaps instead of, you know, following this established career path, taking the path of an entrepreneur meant that perhaps I had failed at something. And I realized that that was a narrative. That it wasn't at all the truth, but it was a narrative I was telling myself.

And further, as I connected to the present, in my experience of that narrative, I realized that underneath that narrative was a feeling of anxiety and fearfulness. And as I just allowed myself to sit with that and to notice that and to name it, I realized that this feeling was just that, it was a feeling. And it was in response to uncertainty and the unknown. But uncertainty and unknown didn't necessarily mean bad things. That I'd just associated them with bad things, like that the business wouldn't be successful.

It turned out the opposite was true. We actually had some really nice early wins. And I'm happy to say that the business is continuing today, some nine years later. But the point being that in connecting to the present, in noticing the narrative and in stopping to time-travel, a lot more is available for you to be able to work with, to move from the experience of failure into other possibilities. So let's dive a little bit deeper here.

Let's think about how we experience failure, how we've learned to experience failure really. So go back to when you were a child. You played, you built sand castles or Lego buildings. You explored the outdoors, you painted, you danced. You just had fun.

Most likely you weren't doing this to break a world record or to paint the most exquisite gallery artwork or to win a dance contest. You played, you built, you explored, you, painted, you danced for fun, to feel joyful. The outcome of those activities was much less, if at all, relevant. It was all about the process. All about the experience.

Before long though, you noticed that a lot of emphasis was placed on the outcome by your parents, family, school teachers, community. If the outcome of your efforts was determined to be a success, you noticed that you were showered with love, praise and presence. That's kind of the way our society functions, isn't it? We kind of reward achievement. If though the outcome was designated a failure, those very same people might scold or criticize or even punish you. So it was easy to learn that outcome determined worth, how much love, appreciation, care you'd receive.

And so sometimes this shifts our focus. It was no longer the process, but the outcome that becomes important. And the older we get, the more we get caught up in the polarities of failure and success. They're reinforced by our culture. Particularly with failure, we get caught up in the kind of cognitive distortions, the unhelpful thinking patterns rooted in negativity, or even catastrophic thinking.

We sometimes think the worst is going to happen. And we think that often and as a default state. In fact, some researchers are suggesting that we have, as humans, something called a negativity bias. A tendency to see the world in terms of threat and negative outcomes. We may even start to fear certain outcomes that aren't necessarily grounded in factual reality.

So at its core, fear of failure goes back to that very primitive need of wanting to be loved, to be heard, to be seen and valued. So what can we do about it? Well, one of the main things I want to offer is that mindfulness allows us to be more fully with the process, to be with the experience that we're having as we're having it, to reconnect with the joy, aliveness, awe, and the feelings we have for all the steps in the process, the process itself, rather than the outcome. Even if we fail at times or have the experience of failure, as I said earlier, which at times we might, allowing ourselves to have a safe, non-judgemental haven where we're simply in the present or in the moment allows us the opportunity to simply be a little bit more spacious about the experience of failure. Here's the other thing that mindfulness helps with. It can prevent you from time-traveling and applying judgments and criticisms to yourself.

Again, why do we feel bad when we fail at something? It has to do with the forms of thinking that are usually rooted in a negative or even catastrophic view of the past or the future. It's that time-traveling thing we do. And again, it's reinforced throughout our lives and through our culture. We either achieve something or we fail at it. But again, it's not an indictment of character.

While it's true that we don't always meet our highest expectations or those of others, there's always other possibilities. So by anchoring attention and awareness in the present moment, it's possible to, in some measure, dissolve the pain you can sometimes feel in relation to failure. So I would invite you to try some of the mindfulness practices that we've been offering here on this platform. And to take a moment, perhaps take a deep breath and connect with your breathing. With your body.

And with your heart. Whatever that means for you. So I want to thank you for listening today, and I wish you well, as you move forward and navigate the sometimes experience of failure. Be kind, be gentle and be compassionate with yourself as you navigate the very tough circumstance of the experience of failure. And know that there's a lot more that's possible.

Thanks so much and take good care of yourself.

Talk

4.6

I’m Finding It Hard to Move On From Failure. How Do I Work With This?

Rich shares helpful reflections and practices to dissolve the pain we can sometimes feel in relation to failure.

Duration

Your default time is based on your progress and is changed automatically as you practice.

Hi, it's Rich here. I've been asked to answer the question, I'm finding it hard to move on from failure. How do I work with this? Yeah, that's a tough one, the experience of failure. And I think using and understanding that phrase, the experience of failure, is really key because look, you're not a failure. Doesn't mean you are a failure and that's kind of what you amount to as a person.

It's actually the experience of failure that we're talking about here. This sort of feeling sense that we might've let someone down or perhaps not met a goal or a mark we set for ourselves, or perhaps that others have set for us. Regardless, no matter what it is, it's an experience of failure. It doesn't mean in totality, you, as a person are a failure. It's a really important distinction because it always means that there's opportunities to have a different kind of experience to either try again or try something different.

Let me give you three tips here about how to work with this experience of failure. So, number one, I suggest to stop the time travelling, wondering about what you did wrong or what could go wrong in the future. The second is to notice the narrative you tell yourself about this experience of failure. That means the sort of tape loop or the story that's playing in your head about what this means for you as a person. So just notice that narrative.

And the third is really to connect to the present. In the present moment, even if you've had an experience of failure, what's present? What's really present? Now it could be a feeling that isn't so great. I've had those too. When I felt like I failed at something and had an experience of failure, it did not feel good. But if I stay with it, in other words, if I stay in the present and really try to understand and name and take note of the sensations and feelings I'm experiencing, something interesting happens, which is that you realize it's a feeling and feelings come and go.

And that there are other feelings that are also available. So, for example, when I left my career of many years at Google and I started my own company, Wisdom Labs, for a few days there, at least, if not a few months, actually, there were moments where I felt like perhaps I was doing something bad. Perhaps instead of, you know, following this established career path, taking the path of an entrepreneur meant that perhaps I had failed at something. And I realized that that was a narrative. That it wasn't at all the truth, but it was a narrative I was telling myself.

And further, as I connected to the present, in my experience of that narrative, I realized that underneath that narrative was a feeling of anxiety and fearfulness. And as I just allowed myself to sit with that and to notice that and to name it, I realized that this feeling was just that, it was a feeling. And it was in response to uncertainty and the unknown. But uncertainty and unknown didn't necessarily mean bad things. That I'd just associated them with bad things, like that the business wouldn't be successful.

It turned out the opposite was true. We actually had some really nice early wins. And I'm happy to say that the business is continuing today, some nine years later. But the point being that in connecting to the present, in noticing the narrative and in stopping to time-travel, a lot more is available for you to be able to work with, to move from the experience of failure into other possibilities. So let's dive a little bit deeper here.

Let's think about how we experience failure, how we've learned to experience failure really. So go back to when you were a child. You played, you built sand castles or Lego buildings. You explored the outdoors, you painted, you danced. You just had fun.

Most likely you weren't doing this to break a world record or to paint the most exquisite gallery artwork or to win a dance contest. You played, you built, you explored, you, painted, you danced for fun, to feel joyful. The outcome of those activities was much less, if at all, relevant. It was all about the process. All about the experience.

Before long though, you noticed that a lot of emphasis was placed on the outcome by your parents, family, school teachers, community. If the outcome of your efforts was determined to be a success, you noticed that you were showered with love, praise and presence. That's kind of the way our society functions, isn't it? We kind of reward achievement. If though the outcome was designated a failure, those very same people might scold or criticize or even punish you. So it was easy to learn that outcome determined worth, how much love, appreciation, care you'd receive.

And so sometimes this shifts our focus. It was no longer the process, but the outcome that becomes important. And the older we get, the more we get caught up in the polarities of failure and success. They're reinforced by our culture. Particularly with failure, we get caught up in the kind of cognitive distortions, the unhelpful thinking patterns rooted in negativity, or even catastrophic thinking.

We sometimes think the worst is going to happen. And we think that often and as a default state. In fact, some researchers are suggesting that we have, as humans, something called a negativity bias. A tendency to see the world in terms of threat and negative outcomes. We may even start to fear certain outcomes that aren't necessarily grounded in factual reality.

So at its core, fear of failure goes back to that very primitive need of wanting to be loved, to be heard, to be seen and valued. So what can we do about it? Well, one of the main things I want to offer is that mindfulness allows us to be more fully with the process, to be with the experience that we're having as we're having it, to reconnect with the joy, aliveness, awe, and the feelings we have for all the steps in the process, the process itself, rather than the outcome. Even if we fail at times or have the experience of failure, as I said earlier, which at times we might, allowing ourselves to have a safe, non-judgemental haven where we're simply in the present or in the moment allows us the opportunity to simply be a little bit more spacious about the experience of failure. Here's the other thing that mindfulness helps with. It can prevent you from time-traveling and applying judgments and criticisms to yourself.

Again, why do we feel bad when we fail at something? It has to do with the forms of thinking that are usually rooted in a negative or even catastrophic view of the past or the future. It's that time-traveling thing we do. And again, it's reinforced throughout our lives and through our culture. We either achieve something or we fail at it. But again, it's not an indictment of character.

While it's true that we don't always meet our highest expectations or those of others, there's always other possibilities. So by anchoring attention and awareness in the present moment, it's possible to, in some measure, dissolve the pain you can sometimes feel in relation to failure. So I would invite you to try some of the mindfulness practices that we've been offering here on this platform. And to take a moment, perhaps take a deep breath and connect with your breathing. With your body.

And with your heart. Whatever that means for you. So I want to thank you for listening today, and I wish you well, as you move forward and navigate the sometimes experience of failure. Be kind, be gentle and be compassionate with yourself as you navigate the very tough circumstance of the experience of failure. And know that there's a lot more that's possible.

Thanks so much and take good care of yourself.

Talk

4.6

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