If It Doesn’t Challenge You; It Doesn’t Change You.

Failure.  I write this just minutes after ending a 2-hour phone conference with 5 state level officials challenging the legitimacy of Primary Election Ballot Nomination Petitions of four Congressional candidates on numerous procedural grounds.   Challenges which required hours of preparation from a team and hundreds of pages of documentation to support.  Challenges on which I did not prevail.  Was I disappointed, yes.   I always am when I don’t ‘succeed’ in the way I had hoped for. 

A phone call from a reporter after the call though, is what immediately refocused my mindset.  He asked what impact the failure had on me. . . would I give up on the electoral process, was I disenfranchised enough to disconnect or would I stay involved and advocate for change?   My answer – of course I’ll stay involved, the only way to produce change is to be part of the process.   I firmly believe there will be legislative changes as a result of the effort.  I firmly believe that walking away and complaining is easy; but change is hard and it comes with some lumps along the way.

A favorite t-shirt of mine says “If it doesn’t challenge you; it doesn’t change you.”   That’s how I choose to look at life.   I want to grow.  I want to change.  I want to be better.  And sometimes that means I fail at something.  . . .more accurately it often means I fail at something.  Especially the first time I try it!  You know what I enjoy about trying something new, I’m not ‘supposed’ to be good at it – so it’s perfectly ok to be really bad and learn from it!   This is referred to by psychologist Carol Dweck as “Growth Mindset” and is a distinguishing factor for grit, resilience and learning.  While you might think you have to be born with the mindset, that’s not true – you can learn it.

A phrase I heard as teenager, years before the phrase Growth Mindset was invented, is ingrained deep in my mind “Success is never final. Failure is seldom fatal.  It’s courage that counts.”  A quick Google search tells me Churchill said that.  It makes sense a man who also said “Never, never, never, never give up” would say this.   This is growth mindset.   If you look you’ll find it all around you.  You will also find that “successful” people have ALWAYS had failures along the way.  “Successful” people don’t give up; they have the courage to go again believing ‘if it doesn’t challenge you; it doesn’t change you.’

Make a decision to invest in your Growth Mindset.  Reframe failure into a positive – because it IS!  For some ideas of how to do that check out these suggestions:

  • Read “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” written by Carol Dweck;
  • Go to  www.ted.com and search failure, then watch a few (or all) of the Ted Talks that reframe failure
  • Go to www.trainugly.com and read, watch videos, etc.
  • Go to “Rewrite Happy” on Facebook and participate in reframing the definition of happy

Failure is seldom fatal – go forth and FAIL forward!

By: Dr. Cyndi Hanson

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