change and uncertainty, uneasy, failure

We have never lived in a time that was richer in opportunity for failing. However you define failure – and it’s a broad spectrum – here is something for everyone.

For starters, the near-universal goal of ‘happiness’ is such an abstract one that just aiming for it can ensure disappointment. The pattern repeats itself in just about any area of our lives that you can think of; relationships, child-rearing, career satisfaction, financial security…  The more you aim for success in any of these areas, the greater the opportunities for missing your target, and so failing

It’s surprising, then, that despite the wealth of opportunities for failure, some people are still have success. That’s OK if it’s really what you want, but do you?

I ask the question because, even though so many people say they want to succeed , you only have to look around you to see that that’s not what they are really aiming for. Words are easy, but when the behaviour doesn’t match… well, we’ve all known others who say one thing and do another. Here are a few examples I’ve met recently:

  • A woman who, having said that all she really wants to do is relax and get time to herself, continues to say ‘yes’ to others far too often to find the time.
  • A group of mature students who, with the declared aim of getting good grades, repeatedly arrive at lectures too tired to stay awake.
  • A man, supposedly training for a half-marathon to build resilience and improve his health, who never practices, even though the date is looming.

Fortunately for them, and thousands like them, failure is almost guaranteed. It’s an effortless process.

So I have been wondering why ‘success’ is still a mantra for so many people, even though they don’t seem to be very serious about it and, whatever they say, they are almost bound to fail. Perhaps this is because, if they own up to their intention to fail, and then they do fail, that could be counted as a success?

It can be confusing to be living in a culture which extols values that it doesn’t live by. Having to sign up to being successful when really all we want to do live as we always have done, failing effortlessly and then complaining about it, is tiring. It leads to inner conflict and a lot of wasted energy. To avoid this confusion and simplify things, here are a few ideas for increasing the chances of failing:

  1. Say you’ll ‘try’. Successful people don’t try, they just get on with it. Add ‘try’ to your vocabulary and you increase your chances of failure
  2. Cultivate unhealthy habits; cut back on exercise, eat junk, drink several units a day over the recommended alcohol limits, etc.
  3. Practice deluding yourself about want to ‘succeed’, and broadcast your intentions. If you do it well enough you’ll be able to fail in peace and nobody will interfere.
  4. Cut back on opportunities for rest and sleep whenever you can. Work at this and you’ll disrupt your sleep patterns so tiredness will become the norm.
  5. If successful parenting is your aim, ignore common sense and your nurturing instincts by pushing the little darlings to succeed and filling their lives with ‘activities’ that reduce their opportunities to be children.
  6. Always put the needs of others ahead of your own. Make their lives easier by sacrificing yourself at any opportunity.
  7. Tell everybody how hard things are these days; complain whenever you get a chance, to anyone who’ll listen.
  8. Look for faults in others to boost your own sense of self.
  9. At work, make sure everybody knows how busy you are by taking no breaks, ignoring lunch, and staying as late as you can at work.
  10. Push yourself by comparing yourself with others, especially those who you perceive to more successful/beautiful/wealthy than you are. Celebrities are particularly useful in this regard.

You see? Failure doesn’t to be difficult, and it sure beats the effort of succeeding.

I’m a psychologist, coach, and therapist. All my work is aimed at enabling people to improve personal aspects of their lives and work.


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