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What is Failure?

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Not this, not that…

What is failure? I’m well versed on society’s definition of failure, which generally falls in line with what the dictionary says. The Free Dictionary defines failure as “the condition or fact of not achieving the desired end or ends.” Failure is also often viewed as the opposite of success. What I am proposing is that there is a whole grey area in the black and white failure-success model that’s not often acknowledged or celebrated. In my mind, failure is giving up on yourself or an idea that you want to see realized. It’s letting your negative thought patterns and the box you’ve put yourself in define you. It’s deciding to forfeit your life-long dream, in order to make others happy. To me, failure isn’t getting fired, losing a client, ending a relationship or receiving an “F” on an exam. It’s not even about “not achieving a desired ends,” it’s about what you let that moment of perceived failure mean to you. In my mind, what you decide to do after challenging events determines where you lie on the failure-success continuum. So, what’s with this grey area? Well, I believe it’s comprised of all the actions you take on your path to “success,” or as I like to call it–fulfillment. It’s what you do after you don’t meet your goal or desired outcome in order to make it THIS TIME. The grey area is about picking yourself up after you fall and learning from your mistakes. 

I received this beautiful bracelet, pictured above, at the end of my yoga teacher training through Power Yoga Canada. In Sanskrit, Neti Neti means neither this nor that. It’s on my wrist to remind me of what I am not. I am not a failure until I decide to stop trying, I am not defined by my career, financial position or social status. I am not unworthy or incapable. This token from training reminds me that I can choose to be wherever I want on the failure-success continuum, because only I define myself–what I AM–and only I can define my loses or triumphs. I choose to use the energy surrounding so-called failures to fuel my next steps towards greatness. 

As a relatively new Freelance Writer, I’m running into some situations that could be viewed as failures. Recently, I lost a major writing client. I was managing their website and creating content, and relying heavily on the project as a paycheck and means to get by until my yoga teaching becomes more lucrative. The website owner decided not to move forward with the project, and so our work relationship was terminated. It took the wind out of my sails yesterday. I immediately started searching for new writing clients to take on so I can pay my bills and keep my writing business afloat, but I felt dark and cloudy during the whole process. Just short of sobbing uncontrollably, I turned to my boyfriend to vent about how defeated I felt. I thought–I couldn’t possibly make money off my writing talent, teach yoga and live my dream…why me? How could I be so stupid to think this would work? He responded by reminding me of what we all already know, but often forget when we buy into the failure-success model, that when one door closes another one opens. The universe is telling me that I’m destined for bigger and better things and I need to shift my writing focus to better support myself. That doesn’t make me a failure, does it? Instead of giving up on my business and other fruitful writing relationships that I currently manage, I’m pushing full-steam ahead and coming up with more ways to be fulfilled in this path. I am not a failure or loser (Neti Neti), I am powerful, hard-working and talented.  I choose to keep following my passion, and therefore I am a success– in my books!

Hopefully now you’re more open to viewing failure and success in a different light, a light that isn’t limiting and disheartening, but one that illuminates all the possibilities that lie ahead. What do the words Neti Neti mean to you? How can you redefine yourself so that you’re no longer restricted by the concept of defeat and achievement? As I’ve learned, what you chose to say after the words “I am” can define your self-view, your perspective and level of happiness in this life. So, choose them carefully.



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