Contemplating failure

There’s a lot of positivity culture out there to tell us we can have anything and everything we want. We have to be positive enough, never give up, keep visualising the glorious outcome. It doesn’t take into account that failure is a very real part of human experience. We will all fail sometimes. Being realistic about how and why we’ve failed and what the implications are, is really important.

We can fail through lack of knowledge, experience and skill. It can mean that we just have to pick ourselves up and have another go. Many things require patience and perseverance, and will not come to us quickly just because we want them. Recognising the work involved, and recognising that we may fall short makes us better able to deal with reality than going forth with relentless positivity.

The timing may be bad. We may be unlucky. Things beyond our control may wreck our plans. We may not have the resources to achieve what we wanted. We may need to change tack and study, or practice, or rethink in some other way. These are all common events. They do not represent a failure to be positive enough, and simply being positive won’t deal with them.

How do you tell when you really should give up? How much time and money and energy – yours and other people’s – should you pour into something before you’ll admit it’s a bad loss? When is it time to accept that a dream isn’t viable? There are only personal answers here. A consciousness of failure can help us shift our goalposts to more appropriate positions. When I was a teen, I wanted to be a famous and important author. Experience has taught me to accept that if I can make ends meet and some people like my stuff, that’s probably as good as it can get.

I could dream about one day climbing Everest, but this body is never going to be equal to it. I doubt I could get up even the smallest mountain these days. No amount of positive thinking is going to enable me to run long distances, either. When do we decide what’s possible and what isn’t? When do we give up?

One of the big questions here is around how chasing the dream impacts on others. Imagine the person who goes full time with their dream but earns very little, and whose family has to support them. Imagine that they put little time into their family or friendships, expecting emotional and practical support while they follow their dream. How long can that continue before the dream itself needs questioning. A year? A decade? It’s important to consider what we’re asking other people to sacrifice for the sake of our dreams. Are we making other people put their lives on hold for us? Are we killing their dreams for the sake of our own? Are we making them pay unfairly?

If your efforts and failures and aspirations only really impact on you, then how you live your life is really no one else’s business. Most of us don’t exist in that kind of isolation. Dreams need putting into context, and I think one of the most important measures for failure and for recognising the need to give up, is how much the unrealised dream is costing other people.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

7 responses to “Contemplating failure

  • Eliza Ayres

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal.

  • garycohenblog

    The culture of you can be anything you want is a flawed ideology as it is very unlikely that every one can be anything they want to be in terms of career and materialistic comfort, which is what it seems the idea is selling.
    It has a underlying individualistic approach I think. It says if you fail it’s your fault and yet the society that preaches this approach often does not create the conditions for positive growth for all its citizens. It may use words like freedom for all but it’s success in terms of financial comfort etc is actually exclusive to the minority.

  • lornasmithers

    I’m ditto the person in the penultimate paragraph – supported by my parents and, more recently, a small number of patrons. I do give back to my parents by helping out planning and shopping for meals and doing work around the house and garden. Not cool but both they and I agree that in this day and age when housing is short and we need to do all we can to save on energy it makes more sense for me to live in a spare already heated room rather than getting my own place and forcing myself to get a job that makes me thoroughly miserable rather than following my dream, which I work just as hard at, probably harder, than anyone with a full-time job.

  • neptunesdolphins

    I understand failure and dream pursuing in a different way. I have a traumatic brain injury (TBI). In my TBI community, the focus is always on recovery from the injury, to go back to what life was like before. It is relentless and upbeat. If you give up or check out, the TBI people – both the ones with TBIs and the people who minister to them – shun you. I dropped out of the relentless recovery syndrome, and worked on coming to grips with living my life now with a TBI. Sometimes, I hit a wall such as never be able to drive a car, so I give up. I accept it and move on.

  • Iva Didova

    Still amazes me that every time I read a blog of yours it is relevant to my immediate situation. I agree for the most part… but there is so much more to it than just the basic support system. I for one try not to involve other people when it comes to my dream, but because of that I might never get there because being alone while struggling and trying to reach dreams slows down the process. However, we all need to be appreciative of the fact that you always give a different perspective.

    • Nimue Brown

      I can only ever paint in broad brush strokes here, or reflect on details that are mine alone. But, other people come in as you have done to share wider perspectives and different experiences, and that’s always powerful, for me. The idea of collaboration and dreams is something I might run with, it raises a lot f interesting questions. Thank you!

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