Failure is not the opposite of success, just a regular ditch along the path

This weekend, I’ve come to a realisation that has made me see things in a different light.

Recently, I’ve been feeling like I’ve been failing a lot, and as I was reflecting on these failures, I realised that perhaps I shouldn’t feel bad about this. The fact that I’ve been failing a lot is probably because I’m doing new things, pushing myself into areas I haven’t explored before, and trying new creative projects.

It made me think about the concept of flow, which was first introduced by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. According to Csikszentmihalyi, flow is the state in which a person is fully engaged and absorbed in an activity—when our skills are fully matched to the challenge at hand. When we’re in flow, we’re in the right place, and it’s here where we can experience optimal experience, joy and satisfaction.

It’s important to note that flow is not a destination, it’s a journey and it’s not always easy. Being in the flow often means pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones and taking risks. It’s a zone where you will experience occasional anxiety and boredom and the zone where you’ll feel like you’re failing a lot. However the main feeling of flow is of being able to reach our goals, and of learning and growth.

So it’s important to remember that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s a natural and necessary step on the path towards it.

Instead of seeing failure as a negative thing, let’s reframe it as an opportunity to grow and learn. When we’re feeling like we’re failing a lot, it’s a sign that we’re pushing ourselves to the upper limit of the flow zone. It’s a sign that we’re on the right track and that we’re making progress. We should not hurriedly swipe our failure away, but look at it carefully. What happened here? What went wrong? What can we do to ensure the same thing doesn’t bite us in the bum next time?

One of the keys to thriving in the flow zone is to be prepared for failure. Expect it to happen and expect to learn from it.

When we’re prepared for failure, it doesn’t feel so overwhelming when it happens. We can take it in our stride and use it as an opportunity to grow and improve.

Expect others to see our flow path with all its uncertainty, vulnerability and failure, as a demonstration of our inability. Remember that people use this same judgement on themselves to keep themselves safe.

We may safely carry on, knowing that we’re learning, and that whilst we’ll keep failing regularly, we’ll be failing at new and interesting things, while the naysayers perform perfection slap bang in the middle of their comfort zones.

This carrying on, despite all the odds, is called grit or resilience. Resilience means being able to bounce back from failure and keep moving forward. It means being able to pick yourself up and try again, even when things feel tough. A key to resilience is to reconnect often with things which are not the project we’re working on at the moment. Take a step away to regain some perspective. Oh look, I’m failing regularly but the world is still turning, and nobody much seems to care that my latest project fell flat on its face. That’s alright then.

Resilience is an important quality to cultivate when we’re working in the flow zone because we will inevitably face challenges and obstacles.

In conclusion, flow can feel like an obstacle course. It can be challenging and a vulnerable place to be, but it’s also where we experience growth and progress.

So, next time you’re feeling like you’re failing a lot, remember that you’re probably in the flow zone, and practice gratitude for that.

Embrace failure, learn from it, and use it as a stepping stone to success. Above all, remember that you’re the only one who knows what the original plan was.

1 thought on “Failure is not the opposite of success, just a regular ditch along the path

  1. There is a peculiar confluence here. ChatGPT makes mistakes, employs educated guesses, and generally interpolates from what it knows to what it thinks a user want to know. It has to because the amount of information it might otherwise need is boundless. We humans are just the same: we guess, infer, interpolate and estimate by considering probable answers. Obviously failure is a possibility as a consequence in the sense that what we infer and suggest may not be right. But the alternative is to say almost nothing at all. So as I say in episodes 8.14-15 of Unmaking Sense, the remarkable thing about the accusations Will Knight levels against chatGPT is that they are a triple own-goal: what they do is show that chatGPT is far more human in its reasoning processes than we might have thought possible only a few months ago.

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