Failures and mistakes bum us out. It’s worse when you know it’s your own fault.
How do you react?
Do you beat yourself up?
I know I used to. I would punish myself for mistakes. I would take away treats and rewards, saying “You don’t deserve that, Ari.”
It’s as if I was training myself like Pavlov’s dog.
But nowadays, I do the opposite. I pat myself on the back, eat my favorite snack, do something fun — I reward myself.
Why would I do that, when I messed up?
First, the sting of failure is punishment enough. I don’t know about you, but I tend to get even sloppier in my misery. Failures can be terribly depleting events, so if I plan to bounce back, the best defense is to do something that feeds me.
Second, failures and mistakes are life’s richest learning opportunities. Any opportunities for learning and growth are good things, but failures are some of the best. What is the logic behind punishing myself for encountering such an occasion?
And if the failure happened as a result of me taking a risk or taking an initiative — really, that’s an occasion to celebrate! I need to reward myself even more for taking that chance.
Once I tried to start a computer business. I was going to be an IT Tech for small businesses and individuals. The venture was a miserable failure — I discovered that I didn’t enjoy doing it, and I spent unnecessary money on ineffective advertising. The few times I did get work were all very stressful experience.
I kicked myself for a long time for that failure. I would not do anything nice to myself because I had “wasted” money — so I wasn’t deserving of any.
It’s only recently that I look back at the experience as a valuable learning opportunity. One of which is that testing is important — both to see if I like it and if it’s effective. The lessons I learned informed many decisions since.
A well-lived life is one littered with countless failures and mistakes. By filling life with failure small and big, you avoid making the biggest mistake of all — the one of not living.
Of course, you don’t want to make same mistakes and over and over. You need to use them to learn and grow. But even when you do, you won’t stop making mistakes. Failures and mistakes are necessary ingredients on your way up, throughout your growth path. It sounds funny, but you should be alarmed if you stop making mistakes.
Don’t be silly in thinking that we would make more mistakes if we got in the habit of rewarding ourselves. We’re not Pavlov’s dog, at least not in this regard. Our pursuit for success will not be so easily deterred by being nice to ourselves in our time of need.
We create our own failures. But that doesn’t mean that we have to treat ourselves as one. Generously replenish yourself, so that you can gather your resources to try again.