The Dignity of Failure

The blog this week was written by Jennifer Goodwill, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute. Life is full of learning experiences. Some of our most significant learning and growth can take place as the result of a failure. Of course, no one enjoys the experience of not succeeding in a situation. However, it is these types of experiences that give us insight into our strengths and weaknesses. It is through the struggle of trying to figure out how to accomplish something that we often find the right way to move ahead. We don’t always know what the right answers are going to be; rather, it is through trial and error that we are given the opportunity to discover the right steps to take and to develop the skills we need.

In working with individuals with disabilities, I have found there are times when the fear of failure is so strong, that individuals become stuck. They are not able to progress, learn and have new experiences. And, it isn’t always the individual that is afraid of failing, it is his family or community circle that is afraid of the “what if…” What if he misses the bus? What if she is rejected by a potential employer? What if he gets hurt? What if she needs more time to learn a routine? What if she needs to ask for assistance? Of course, this doesn’t mean you just throw someone into a situation and hope for the best. You think through in advance where the challenges may occur, create safeguards and have a contingency plan in place. We need to prepare for the worst, but expect the best.

I am a parent myself, so I understand how easy it can be to focus on the “what if…” It is out of love and concern that family members want to guard an individual from having a negative experience. There are conflicting emotions related to giving your child independence and letting them take a risk. As a parent, I am responsible for protecting my daughter. So, if something bad happens to her, how will I ever forgive myself for allowing it to happen?

But, what we need to recognize is that in our efforts to keep the bad stuff out, we keep the good stuff out, too. It is through the discovery process of trial and error that we learn and experience new things. No outcomes are guaranteed. Things don’t always go as planned. That is ok. There is dignity in allowing everyone the opportunity to try new things. And, if at first you don’t succeed…try, try again.