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  • Writer's pictureAbbie VanMeter

Success & Failure | Daily Mindful Moment #7

Updated: Apr 11, 2023

What is success to you? What is failure?

This is (yet again) another practice in meaning-making. Another way to think of these questions is: "What does it mean to you to be successful? What does failure mean to you?"

Maybe you have some ideas about what success looks like. Where did those ideas come from? Did your parents shape the way you define success? Did your peers? Your teachers? Your culture? Movies or media? Once you have a better understanding of where your ideas around success and failure come from, I think the next question to ask yourself is ... "Do I agree?"

Just because a certain meaning was made around success and failure by your family, your friends, or your culture, doesn't mean that you have to buy into it. If this podcast can teach you anything, I hope it is the fact that you have a lot of choices that often go unseen or taken for granted. You get to choose how you define success. As with everything else, the meaning of success is not innate or unchangeable. We attach the meaning. And it's okay for your meaning to look different from someone else's meaning.

In the interest of being "CMM-ish," we should always be looking for ALL the stories that exist, not just one most obvious one. For example, wouldn't it make sense that your ideas around success are heavily influenced by your ideas about failure? We really can't talk about one without talking about the other.

Maybe it feels easy to say that you are a driven person and value being successful by your own definition. But, it might feel harder to recognize that your drive for success comes out of a deep fear of failure.

But before we can even answer that question we have to define failure for ourselves, too. It could be true that your definition of failure would look like to success to someone else. Think about that. Ultimately, I think these questions take us back to our values. The way we define success and failure says a lot about our values. And there are so many different areas of our lives to consider.

What does success/ failure in my relationships look like?

What does success/ failure in my work look like?

What does success/ failure in my community look like?

What does success/ failure in ____________ look like?

Take a minute or two to consider these and any other areas that you want to be thinking about success and failure. Maybe even take some time to write down your answers. Reflection is a powerful tool for understanding ourselves and our patterns.

I think a lot of people see failure as something to be totally avoided, something that is embarrassing, or something that is permanent. What if failure meant learning to you? What if you began to see failure (whatever it means to you) as just a part of the human experience?

Certainly, you have heard similar messages before- something along the lines of "Don't be afraid of failure! Failure is the biggest teacher!" That may resonate with you or it may not. Either way, I'm asking us to go a little deeper. It's not an overnight change to start embracing "failure" so to speak. Especially because ideas about failure might be something that is even more deeply ingrained in you than success is. Others' ideas about failure might be really hard to let go of, but we have to be the ones to determine our own path and measure our own success or failure. Other people can't do that for us. Oh, they will try. But we have to keep going on the journey of making our own meaning. We can exist in the tension of our own meaning looking radically different than others. Other people also get to make their own meaning, too.

As you spend some time considering your relationship to the concepts of success and failure, zoom out, too. What could different definitions of success and failure mean in terms of making a better social world?

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