Processing Failure

Even when we desire success without hesitation, it doesn’t always go our way. There can be a let down from giving our best effort and coming up short. Failure can be defined as the lack of success and success is defined as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. When we don’t succeed at something, the result can push us in different directions. The direction we take based on failure seems correlated to our thought process. The answer may boil down to how we look at our failure. Because, no matter how good we are at something, we won’t succeed 100 percent of the time. The easiest option when faced with failure would probably be to quit. We could become a victim, blaming other things for our disappointing result. Explaining away a disappointing result as beyond our control also seems relatively simple. We were the victim of circumstances that dictated an outcome. Another option might be to mercilessly blame ourselves for falling short. Then, feeling inadequate, as if there isn’t room for improvement. There might be more positive ways to look upon failure. What if failure becomes the starting point. It can tell us the areas we could improve in order to succeed. Failure might be motivational for some, wanting to show success is possible with more effort. So, we go back and look at the process to succeed. Disappointment is felt by all, our reactions to it seems important.

Cerebral palsy can lend itself to feelings of victimization. My life has experienced examples of feeling like the victim. It is true that we live inside a world not created for someone with CP. This fact means taking on physical tasks could result in failure. One easy way to process those disappointments would be to feel like a victim. There seem to be plenty of things to blame. Maybe the most common would be feeling ill equipped to perform a task. The inability to perform something viewed as basic can leave a person feeling victimized. Cerebral palsy can have this victimization effect if those emotions penetrate our thinking. They have penetrated my emotions at times. For me, the physical task might be holding a glass of water, or buttoning a shirt can leave me frustrated. These are just a couple things CP holds me back from executing like someone without the disability. They can lead to failure and turning on the poor me attitude. The difficulty with allowing the victim mentality to take root becomes the feeling of giving up on yourself. Soon, those small things we experience trouble with can turn into larger issues.  Maybe finding ourselves giving up on other things. Soon, it could spiral into seclusion from the world.

The desire to succeed can take us a long way. As can an openness about our challenges. It can also leave us open to viewing failure under a different light. Failing at something doesn’t always mean giving up on succeeding. The disappointment of coming up short might serve as a starting point. We may formulate an idea about how to execute a task. From the idea formulated in our minds, we attempt success with the challenge. If the goal isn’t accomplished there could be a variety of reasons for the result. For sure, the failed result can leave us disappointed and disheartened, but it doesn’t need to be the end of a story. It might be more likely something went amiss in the process to accomplish the goal.  Taking time to look back at the process may reveal some answers. The small steps we piece together help lead us to accomplishing a task. It seems many times we don’t pay attention to all the little things taking place to get something done. We might skip over, or take for granted, a step that needed more attention in order for us to succeed. Going back through the process when reaching failure may do more than help us accomplish a goal. It could teach us something about ourselves and help us move forward.

Cerebral palsy can leave me losing sight of the process. Often during life things have been attempted just once or twice. If I couldn’t get close to accomplishing the task, it was easier to walk away. My self-talk would include telling myself if CP weren’t part of the equation, the task could be accomplished. At times, the thoughts would hold me back from even looking at the steps inside the process. My decision had already been made that success with the tasks wouldn’t be possible. It was a short-sighted way of looking at physical challenges. The only result of those thoughts felt like self-protection. As a result, many of my attempts to accomplish goals would be half-hearted, not wanting to deal with risking failure. Disappointment became something I didn’t know how to process and deal with. It led me to giving up on things and blaming cerebral palsy for the result. The actions had me avoiding the concept of taking responsibility. Taking on that responsibility would require processing failure differently. Instead of throwing up my arms and quitting, it would mean looking more closely at the steps required to achieve the goal.  It also meant accepting my own lack of effort and concentration.

Focus up has become a trigger phrase for me when approaching a challenge. Losing focus on the process seems to have me failing. It has been a concentration for the trainer since we started working together. Bernard identified my lack of focus early in our work out sessions. The attitude was standing in the way of attaining the results required to move forward. Much of the lack of focus felt like it was rooted in fear. The fear not truly being able to get stronger. Bernard seemed to have large goals for me to achieve. Not only did he have those goals for us, but also the process for achieving them. There was a fear in me that I couldn’t get stronger. The possible sadness of the possibility felt like it had me holding back. It also had me failing at the process, letting fear win. The processing of failure had me giving up and accepting things as being good enough. I wasn’t open to learning from my failure, because it didn’t feel success was achievable. My process needed to be broken down to find the hiccups holding me back. The setbacks went beyond CP into fear and a lack of focus on the steps required. Success would require me to focus up.

My experience with bouncing the lacrosse ball would be a great example of losing focus. The challenge of consecutive catches had me flustered to begin. It was the task that started changing my thoughts about results. The challenge from Bernard brought the consequences of failure into the forefront of my mind. Just giving effort to the exercise wasn’t going to be good enough. After learning the lacrosse ball could be bounced and caught with my left hand, the ability to do it consecutively began the challenge. It was required to bounce and catch the ball twelve times with dropping the ball. If the lacrosse ball was fumbled at any point of my way to twelve, it meant beginning again at one. We were going to perform the challenge until twelve in a row was accomplished. There were three fumbles before reaching the goal of twelve consecutive bounces and catches on the fourth attempt accomplished the goal. The process had me focused much more on the result than the attempts made. Succeeding at the challenge was important.

Sometimes in order to find success we first experience failure. The failure of my first three attempts of the challenge from Bernard required processing. When my fumbled attempts were made light of I seemingly could have given up. Previously maybe an excuse would have been made, like it was becoming to frustrating, or cerebral palsy was holding me back. But, this challenge took on a different direction. Instead of accepting failure and giving up, we processed the failure. Some of the steps leading to success were being overlooked. My hand wasn’t opening quickly enough to accept the rebound of the lacrosse ball. I wasn’t watching the ball continue its journey into my left hand, keeping my eye on it until the ball was caught. The biggest issue leading to these falters was my lack of focus on the steps. Also, coming into effect was lacking the desire to succeed. Once I accepted that making light of the failures didn’t feel good and accomplishment felt better, things changed in the process. The focus became more intense, as a result the challenge was complete more quickly on the next two attempt at twelve successes in a row. The boost in desire, had me processing previous failures, working to fix my falters, resulting in succeeding.

It’s a good feeling to move any failure into success through effort. The process seems to require acceptance of failure and the desire to change it. It also requires an acceptance that results do matter. The idea of results having consequences has become a new feeling, replacing the concept that effort is the only thing that matters. Effort seems to always be important though, as it leads to the result of succeeding. As we process the failures, we may find different views rising to the surface. The feeling that we want to work for success rather than giving half-hearted effort and walking away. Sometimes success won’t be possible, like me becoming a profession golfer, but that might also be part of processing failure. Looking at the steps of any challenge seems important and understanding how to improve the execution of them. For me, this process of failure in this lacrosse ball challenge has taught me two things. Working toward a positive result doesn’t need to be shied away from and often more focus from me is required to reach those positive results.


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