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1/18/15blog post

why failure IS a good option

While the movie “Apollo 13” was a great adventure story about the heroism of American astronauts, I’ve always been bothered by the popular tag line for the movie—“failure is not an option.”

I’ll admit that the comment makes sense in the context of trying to save the lives of three astronauts at a time of crisis, even though those words were never actually said at the time of the event. However, in real life, failure should be embraced rather than avoided.

If you want to discuss something really interesting with your kids, google “famous people who failed” and see what comes up. You’ll learn about incredibly successful people who were dismal failures during times of their lives.

R.H. Macy failed at seven businesses before starting a major retail chain of stores. Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he “lacked imagination.” Abraham Lincoln failed in the military, business ventures, and politics for many years.

Learning to deal with failure is one key to success, but many parents seem uncomfortable allowing their children to learn from the frustrations of failure. They are concerned that failure will hurt their child’s self-concept and confidence. These parents are wrong.

Whether the failure is harmful or helpful depends upon how the person thinks about what happened. Successful people think about bad events in three different ways.

First, failure is viewed as temporary rather than permanent. Successful people don’t get dejected when things don’t work out because of a belief that the setback is momentary. They persist because they expect to be successful in the future.

Second, successful people view failure as specific to a particular situation rather than universal. They avoid seeing failure as a reflection of their overall ability and value. They maintain confidence that they will be successful in other endeavors.

Finally, successful people don’t over attribute failure as due entirely to their fault. They recognize that there are many circumstances that can lead to failure. They have a realistic view that they can control some of those factors but not others.

Failure doesn’t cause people to lose confidence and give up. It’s all in the way you think about what happened. Failure is a good experience for people who think about it as temporary, specific and not due entirely to their fault.

This means you should encourage your kids to attempt challenging tasks, even if there is a strong likelihood of failure. Use their disappointment as an opportunity to teach them positive ways to think about themselves and their world.

Failure is a great option.