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Winners and Learners

“Success consists of going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

-Winston Churchill

"I am tired of losing! I want to win!" This is what one of my clients recently told me. I shared my belief that in life there aren't winners and losers but instead there are winners and learners. When we see failing, falling short or not being the best, as being a loser, we create a mindset that shapes us to only do those things where we can win, what Carol Dweck calls the fixed mindset. For those who see failing (i.e., not accomplishing our goal) as a positive learning experience where they overcame their fears, tried their best and learned from the experience, we create a mindset of possibilities where anything can happen, a growth mindset.

I have told many stories to my children about how fear keeps us from trying new things - because we doubt our abilities, we compare ourselves to others, and we don't want to fail. One story I recently shared is when I was in high school and a friend of mine invited me to come join the diving team. I had never done diving before but had taken gymnastics when I was younger, so thought I might be good at it. I told him I would come, but in my mind and heart I didn't want to try out for the team because I was sure I wasn't as good as others on the team and I didn't want to look bad. The truth was, I was afraid. Because of the opportunities I would have by being on the team, I got enough courage to go, but as I entered the parking lot of the swimming pool, the fear came back and I wanted to turn around and go home. Luckily, the pool was outside and I could see the divers practicing. I parked in a place where I could see them but they wouldn't be able to tell I was there, and I watched them. To my amazement, most of them weren't even diving, they were walking to the end of the board, bouncing, and jumping in feet first. Soon I could tell they were practicing their approach so they could get a good bounce for whatever dive they needed to do. As I watched them jump in feet first over and over, I thought to myself, "I could do that! In fact, with a little practice, I could probably do it better than half the team." I decided to go to practice, at least for that day. That year, I became the second best diver on the team and placed at state. I gained many new friends and had a great time on the team.

The sad thing is that I almost didn't try due to my fear of failure. What things are you not doing because of fear? Are you afraid of looking dumb, of failing, of not succeeding? Are you unwilling to try new things because you believe you aren't as good as others? For my children, they have been afraid of trying out for lead roles with the school play, the school sports team, or for the solo in the choir. But, because of our discussions around the dinner table of how we have failed many times and that it isn't just ok to fail but it is encouraged, that failure means we are trying new and difficult things, they have a love of trying and have become more resilient. Failure is now seen as a way to grow and become better. The expectation isn't to be awesome at everything from the beginning but that we need to begin wherever we are and get better as we practice. They now feel free to try new things because whether they get the part or not, they overcame fear and tried. They expect to fail at some things and know it is part of the learning process. They understand that to be the person they want to be won't happen if they fear trying new things. To have this mindset of growth takes courage, self-awareness, and self-esteem.

What about you?

Now it is your turn to overcome a fear and venture out of your comfort zone. What have you been putting off that you can decide today that you will try? As you give yourself permission to fail, you will come to realize that you really aren't failing at all, but winning because you have moved past fear to create a mindset of growth. Have a vision of where you want to be, who you want to be, and don't let others or fear get in the way. Get excited about trying new things! Focus on your next level of success and ignore the possible negative comments from others because YOU are in control of your own life and you desire a life of happiness and fulfillment.

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