Why Failure is a Step to Success (Change is Hard)
Recently a friend of mine tried to make a change – she tried to stop smoking. Unfortunately, that attempt only lasted a few days.
Many people, of course, have been in that situation. Many people have tried to make a change and have found themselves less than completely successful. But what I told my friend is that she didn’t fail, she simply hadn’t succeeded – yet.
And so, I would consider her attempt a type of success. I would consider it an intention of success. I would consider it an approximation of success. I would consider it to be a step forward that ultimately will lead to success.
The Process of Change Leading to Success (and Failure)
This brings in mind a parable that was told in my mindfulness meditation class. It went something like this:
There was a man going to work. He stepped off his front step and fell in to a hole. The man was very surprised as there had been no hole there the previous day. He got dirt on his knees and became annoyed on his way to work.
The next day, the man went out his front door to go to work and fell into the hole. He became even more annoyed, cursing the hole and went to work upset that he had fallen two days in a row.
The third day the man got up and he thought to himself, “I’m not going to fall into the hole today.” Then he got dressed, ate breakfast, went out his front door and fell into the hole. Of course, the man was very upset after having told himself he wasn’t going to fall into the hole.
The following day the man promised himself he wouldn’t fall into the hole. He thought to himself all morning, “I will not fall into the hole.” Through breakfast, shaving and opening the front door, he told himself he would not fall into the hole. And sure enough, this day, he walked around the hole.
The following day, not thinking about it, the man again fell into the hole.
The point of the parable is that change is very hard and we tend to fail to meet our goal over and over before we succeed. We also tend to succeed and then fail, then fail, then fail, then succeed, then fail again. Change is not a linear event. Change is circular. One step forward, two steps back.
What I believe in is progressive approximations of success and acknowledgement that throughout the process, we will experience failures.
Why People with Bipolar Should Care about Change
People with bipolar disorder have coping techniques and some of them may cause harm or suffering to others. That’s normal. We’re doing the best we can in a very hard situation. But when it comes time to change these coping behaviors into something that’s more positive, it can be really hard. And we absolutely shouldn’t be discouraged when we don’t succeed 100% right out of the gate.
Change is hard. It’s hard for everyone. And it may be even harder for people that are also battling brain disorders. But we can do it. We can change for the better, just not necessarily all at once.