Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Success and Failure

As I'd mentioned before, I struggle with perfectionism.  So I in turn also struggle with failure, especially feeling like I'm not doing enough or pushing myself or getting anywhere.  Although that can create momentum to try harder, it can also easily become paralyzing and debilitating, and I try not to live in fear of it or let it rule me.  It has been especially hard for me celebrating my 10-year art anniversary because I had hoped that I would have achieved more.  But I am coming to accept where I am and learning to use that as fuel to try for bigger things while recognizing other accomplishments.  Here are some observations I would like to share that help me.

Success is varied and comes in many forms.
Give yourself credit where credit is due.  Even the little things count, and they add up to a lot more than you think.  Just because you're not relentlessly pursuing your goals doesn't mean that you're failing.  You may be succeeding in other ways or in other aspects of your life, and in the process you may actually be moving closer to your goals in ways that you aren't even aware of.

Success and failure are not the only ends.
Accomplishment is not strictly black vs. white, win or lose.  There are many shades of gray between the two and it's often an ebb and flow.  Too sharp a focus can limit your vision and overdirect your attention so that you can't see the whole picture.  Hyperfocusing on success can cause failings in other ways, and can limit your responses so that you don't take opportunities that could lead to future successes. 

Revel in what you have achieved rather than focusing your attention on what you haven't.
It is good to want and strive for more, but try not to exclusively focus on that.  Let yourself reap the rewards of what you have accomplished to get you to where you are.  Revel in the here and now rather than worrying about where you are going or what you haven't yet done .  If you keep looking forward you'll find your path, but don't do so at the expense of the present.

Don't measure yourself by others' successes.
If someone else is achieving, then be glad for them and celebrate in their joy, but don't interpret that to mean that you aren't doing enough, raise the bar on your own success, or deem yourself a failure for not being where they are.  Success often comes at a price and you don't know the behind-the-scenes costs that were weighed and paid beforehand.  You don't know about the sleepless nights, the isolation, the failed attempts, the trials and tribulations, putting loved ones and one's own needs on hold...  You haven't walked that mile in their shoes so don't hold yourself accountable for not being where those shoes led them.

Don't hold yourself to a strict timeline.
Goals are good because they can be great motivation, but they can also be a harsh slap in the face.  Circumstances don't always make ends meet in the time desired, but that doesn't mean you should give up on your dreams.  Keep pursuing your goals, revel in the journey, and give it due time.  It's not always about the outcome; the process of getting there is often equally as important, if not more so.

Don't put yourself down or put off your dreams for fear of failure or rejection.
If you don't reach for the stars you'll never realize what you're capable of.  Failures are good opportunities for growth & learning and can inform later success.  Don't allow yourself to be ruled by fear of failing or rejection because that is a self-fulfilling prophesy - if you never try then you're guaranteed never to get what you want.  You deserve to give yourself that chance.

Allow your goals to adapt and change.
As you come closer to realizing your goals you may come to understand that they aren't everything they were cracked up to be.  The costs may start outweighing the benefits.  Be flexible and allow yourself to pursue other dreams and reformulate your goals to better suit where you have been, are going, and want to be.  We are all constantly evolving, so try to be fluid and adapt.

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