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6 Reasons It’s Okay To Fail

6 Reasons It’s Okay To Fail

I will never forget the first time I felt the sting of failure. I was thoroughly convinced that because of my failures I was relegated to living a mediocre life. All those big hopes and dreams I once had could no longer be fulfilled.

You know the saddest part of all? Nobody told me otherwise. So I’m here to tell you, it’s actually okay to failHere’s why.

1. Failure is inevitable.

At least once in your life, you are going to fail at something. Your talent, intelligence, hard work, and/or passion will not be able to save you. Failure is inevitable. Everybody has failed, although some refuse to admit it. Don’t let them fool you. If you research the stories of the most successful people of our time, you’ll find they, too, have failed. In fact, it was failure that produced the success stories of people like Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, and Walt Disney, just to name a few. So calm down. You’re in incredible company.

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2. You learn substantially more from failure than success.

There is always room for improvement no matter how great you are. Sometimes, you’ll never know which areas need improvement unless you fail. It’s like training for a job. When you first start, your supervisor may bring to your attention some things you’ve done incorrectly. This is not to break your spirit, but to help you. That way, next time you come across the same problem, you’ll know exactly what to do. Instead of sulking over your failures, ask yourself, “What did I do wrong?” That way, next time around you can correct the problem, and do an even better job than before.

3. Failure makes you stronger.

Failure separates the weak from the strong. Some people fail, and they give up on their goals. Others fail, and they gain invincible strength. These people can be knocked to the ground, but they’re like those inflatable dolls. They bounce right back up. That’s what failure should do to you. It shouldn’t break or stop you. It should make you push harder to achieve your goals and dreams. You should feel as though, if you could survive your present failure, you could survive anything. And trust me, you can.

4. You take more chances when you’re unafraid to fail.

People who are afraid to fail are pretty boring. They play it safe. They never take chances. On the other hand, those who are unafraid to fail take insane risk. They’ll go out for that singing competition, even though they can’t sing. They’ll apply for that big-time job, even if they don’t meet all the requirements. These types of risk make life more enjoyable. And you never know, those risks you take when you’re unafraid to fail just might pay off.

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5. Failure allows you to discover new paths.

When you fail, oftentimes you’ll realize the present path you’re on is not the right one. And that’s okay. You can then seek out new paths and discover what’s right for you. But if you don’t fail, you might never consider pursuing different avenues. You’d just continue on down the wrong path.

6. Failure makes success that much sweeter.

How can you know the sweet taste of success if you’ve never felt the sting of failure? To finally succeed, after repeated failure, is one of the best feelings in the world. You’ll feel a great sense of satisfaction, knowing that everything you went through was worth it. That’s because it will be.

What now?

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Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. — Samuel Beckett

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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