Failure is merely a matter of opinion, time, and attitude.
Opinion: Failure is bad. Whenever something happens—especially if it doesn’t conform to what society and we think is the optimal scenario—we judge it as bad and look for someone to blame. The one who usually gets the brunt of it in the end is the one who has “failed.” For instance, if you were to get fired from your job, even if economic conditions and the state of your company were responsible, chances are that at some point you and others would blame you, especially if some people kept their jobs.
Time: We never know how time will transform events. What is thought of as bad can often turn out to be good after some time passes. Example: After being fired from your job, you go on to pursue the career of your dreams, which would not have happened without the job loss.
Attitude: Keep it positive because you never know. Rather than falling into negative thinking—“I’m no good, I’ll never work again, how will this look on my resume?”—engage in positive thinking by seeing the “failure” as an opportunity. For example, “Now I can take that class, start my own business, or change my career focus.” When one door closes, another one opens.
When confronted by an event you would normally define as failure, the practice is, don’t be so quick to judge it as bad, let time be the judge, and keep a positive attitude.
Decide that the universe is doing you a favor and helping you create something that you couldn’t do on your own. Consider it a gift and it will be. It’s another opportunity to practice gratitude.
In the Tao Te Ching, a spiritual text from ancient China, it is written, “Success is as dangerous as failure.” This is a succinct way of saying that if we allow either success or failure to carry us away, off the ground, and into a realm of illusion, chances are we’ll come crashing down at some point and the fall will hurt. This doesn’t mean that if you’re enjoying success, you will eventually fail. It means, if you stay grounded, you will maintain your equanimity and be able to accept whatever happens.
These are some of the traps that success can set:
Once we’re successful, there is a risk that we will consider our work done and begin to take success for granted. Boredom can be one result, followed by laziness, followed by the disappearance of success.
- Judgment of others who are either more or less successful.
To support our insecurities, we might view those less fortunate as inferior and those more fortunate as lucky.
- The “never-enough” syndrome.
No matter how much success we gain, we remain dissatisfied, always wanting more, never grateful for all that we do have.
We boast, we strut, and we gloat, forgetting that success can be taken away as quickly as it was given.
A caution: Watch out for that green-eyed monster of envy and jealousy. When others succeed, be happy for them; congratulate them if you know them, and send good wishes if you don’t.
There is plenty of success to go around, and spending your energy on envy and jealousy only depletes you and detracts from your own success.
Rather than envying others, try to emulate them. And stick with the winners; spend time with them, learn from them, and love them.
During successful times, this is your practice:
- Continue working with determination.
Allow your goals to be malleable and ever-changing; avoid the trap of thinking that you’ve made it and reached the end. Life is a dynamic, ever-evolving phenomenon, and so it is with accomplishments. Stay committed to your path.
- Practice charity toward others—in your thoughts and deeds.
When you taste success, be willing to share it. Wish the same for others and help them where you can. Such generosity benefits everyone, and as the saying goes, “In order to keep it, you have to give it away.”
- Call on your worthy ego, not your petty ego, to gain perspective.
You deserve success; you worked hard for it. So don’t let your petty ego drag you into stingy thoughts and behaviors. Resort instead to your worthy ego or higher self. Be grateful.
Remember that life is a process and every day brings new challenges, rewards, joys, and sorrows. With every experience, we learn new things. Nothing is stagnant. This is why we call it life. So sit, breathe, and move through your life with energy and determination. If you do, you will know success.