You Only Fail When You Stop Trying to Succeed

Is there something you want to do? Some particular goal you have? Perhaps it's a habit you want to break, for example, stopping smoking. Or maybe something you want to learn, for example how to play the piano.

Have you tried to achieve that goal, but stumbled? Stopped smoking only to start again? And again and again and again? Then stopped stopping, gave up trying, resigned to the fact that you're a failure?

Have you tried some sort of new business venture that didn't go according to plan (i.e. didn't work out at all) despite your having been absolutely certain it would be a great success?

Perhaps you haven't even bothered to start trying. One of my favourites is when adults say things like, "I always wanted to play the piano" and I tell them, "So learn." They say they're too old. And I say, "You still have a pulse." And they insist they just couldn't.

Well, I guess if they decide they can't, then they can't. It's really more about "Then they won't", because they've made a choice and decided not to even bother trying.

My mother used to shoot me down before I'd even begun to try new things. Right up until she got dementia, she was still telling me, "You can't do that!" when I'd mention something new I wanted to do or learn.

When my children were little, it drove my mother nuts that I had confidence in them. My eldest daughter, Amy, sings beautifully, and when she was 9, she was going to sing at a wedding. I wanted her to stand front and center in the church so she could be seen and heard properly. And that's what Amy wanted, too.

She knew the lyrics inside out, backwards, upside down and was a very outgoing child, not at all nervous being in such a position.

My mother insisted that she should be way over to one side, behind the piano with the lyrics there for her, just in case. There was a lot of heated discussion about this, in front of my daughter. Unfortunately, that was back before I knew how to stand up for myself and I ended up caving. 

As it turned out, people on one side of the church couldn't hear or see Amy very well - and she never did look down at the lyrics...

Amy was disappointed that she hadn't got the opportunity to prove that she could do it - not just to my mother, but to herself. She hadn't been allowed the chance to succeed.

My mother was teaching insecurity and self-doubt, which really bothered me, but it was years before I understood that she was teaching what she knew. In her own way, she was trying to protect my daughter from failing and ending up lacking confidence, something from which my mother suffered in a significant way. But it still hurt every time I watched her teach my children how to fail, as she had done to me, too.

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As the years passed, I could see that throughout her life, she had felt like a failure in many ways. She projected a lot of her pain and disappointment onto the people she loved, fearing that they would end up in the same state. She wanted to do and learn and try things but because she lacked confidence, she gave up, often without even having tried.

The bottom line is, you only fail when you stop trying to succeed. So you've stopped smoking 286 times, only to begin again. Is that a good reason to say you've failed? Absolutely not. It just means you haven't been successful at reaching your goal of becoming a non-smoker. Yet.

Whatever your goal is, as long as you keep trying to reach it, there is the chance you will succeed. If you want to be successful, stop thinking of yourself as a failure. You will only fail when you give up and refuse to try again.

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