When I wrote about the joy of failure, I was thinking in terms of Big Ideas that hadn’t worked for organizations in the non-profit sector. I figured funders needed to be peaceful with the idea they had not wasted their money if a project they supported didn’t succeed in quite the way the initial proposal was laid out.
Communities know what they need, which means sometimes they head off in the direction funders expect, then veer off into something that works better for them. Acknowledging that what may look like failure is actually success is important if, indeed, the detour brings the community good results.
New research published in Psychological Science confirms this is important for individuals as well. Failure is normal. If we try, we fail. Not all the time, of course, but enough to batter our fragile egos unless we accept our failures as steps along the journey.
The research tells us that if we pat ourselves on the back for being the worthy characters we are, we’ll be better able to survive the bumps. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence of this, but when scientists weigh in, people pay more attention.
What the researchers from the University of Toronto Scarborough and Timour Johns Hopkins University discovered was that self-affirmation doesn’t just make us open to being more realistic about our failures. It also helps us get back up on the proverbial horse and ride on.
When we feel better about ourselves, we are better able to handle our mistakes. Self-affirmation helps us accept our flawed humanity. We try. We fail. We try again—without undermining our sense of self.
Self-affirmation is a mental hug. We can never have too many of those. So go ahead. Make mistakes. Pat yourself on the back for trying, and enjoy the journey.