Question of A Lifetime–Should We Be Afraid of Failure?

index One of those million dollar questions; Is failure a good thing, a bad thing or merely something to be determined by the eye of the beholder? It wasn’t uncommon decades ago, to be told you HAD to achieve to be successful. Even though failure wasn’t mentioned, it was easily assumed to be a negative and undesirable outcome. How many of us have been programmed ‘not to fail?’

The population I personally worry about the most, is that of the children. The worse possible damage to a young, vulnerable and insecure human being, would be to introduce a negative connotation of failure used in the wrong context. We’ve all known people in our lives who grew up considering themselves to be failures and because of that mental image, have not ever gone on to develop into their full potential. Losing one human being to something created by semantics or an ineffective system, is nothing but wrong and requires intervention.

One of the areas that profoundly effects our children is that of education. I believe that from what I read, our education system has taken a different overall approach by introducing failure as merely a normal part of learning and growing, rather than a long-term associated tag. I’m sure there are exceptions, depending on the environment the  individual grows up in.

The American Psychological Society featured a March 12, 2012 article, Reducing Academic Pressure May Help Children Succeed. The research’s synopsis was that “Telling Children learning is difficult could reduce fear of failure.” “WASHINGTON—Children may perform better in school and feel more confident about themselves if they are told that failure is a normal part of learning, rather than being pressured to succeed at all costs, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.”

“We focused on a widespread cultural belief that equates academic success with a high level of competence and failure with intellectual inferiority,” said Frédérique Autin, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Poitiers in Poitiers, France. “By being obsessed with success, students are afraid to fail, so they are reluctant to take difficult steps to master new material. Acknowledging that difficulty is a crucial part of learning could stop a vicious circle in which difficulty creates feelings of incompetence that in turn disrupts learning.”

“The study, published online in APA’s Journal of Experimental Psychology: General; could have important implications for teachers, parents and students, said Jean-Claude Croizet, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Poitiers who supervised the research based on Autin’s doctoral dissertation. “People usually believe that academic achievement simply reflects students’ inherent academic ability, which can be difficult to change,” Croizet said. “But teachers and parents may be able to help students succeed just by changing the way in which the material is presented.”

This study is but one view on the subject, but one that makes sense. As they say, knowledge empowers a person and isn’t this a good example of the positive effects of knowledge? The burden can’t be entirely placed on the education system alone. We all have to be accountable and look at how we raise our children. Do we ever listen to what comes out of our mouths towards others (children included), especially during times of what we perceive as monumental stress/frustration? Have we not put ourselves above what we perceive to be inferior (for lack of a better term) and offered our unwanted opinions. I’m not perfect and have made a mistake or two over time, but the key is realizing this and making the necessary changes so that the inappropriate behavior ceases. Its past time to quit pointing our fingers at others as the culprit.

Our educational system surely doesn’t need another layer of bureaucracy to tell them how to do their jobs, so why not put the burden back on us, the parents, to take the time and teach our children about failure and that it is a normal part of learning.No one likes to fail but the answer is to learn from it, make necessary changes and move on towards one’s road to success. We all wish for the best in our fellow-man, including the chance to succeed. If only we’d all put more emphasis on personal accountability in how we raise our own children, how we treat others and above all else, avoid judging. It can be done and is merely about one’s personal choice to commit. The consequences of such efforts would be nothing but a significant and positive change for mankind.

Image credit: Deliver

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