“Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria, if you let it.” (J.K. Rowling – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.
Rowling sure has that right; however, sometimes I think we are actually harder on ourselves than the world at large. Maybe that’s because we know what we were trying to do or because we see some little thing that is wrong that the rest of the world can’t even see. So, some times when the world is trying to pat you on the back and say “great job”, let it; instead of giving yourself a “Yeah, but.”
I also don’t agree with the self-esteem zealots who want to give everyone who shows up a trophy for trying. There is value in having measurable goals or standards and providing rewards for those who achieve them in sports and other pursuits in life. If nothing else, there is a personal sense of accomplishment at having achieved some goal or accomplishing some task.
If, at the end of a project or event, you can look back and honestly say that you gave it your best, whether you reached the goal or not, it can work as a personal victory and a motivator for your next try. You will often hear that some runner or other athlete has just accomplished a “person best”, which I’m sure they will take as a personal victory, whether others around them see and appreciate that or not. Once you’ve achieved your personal best, you can set the next goal for yourself.
So, like Rowling recommends; you have to decide at the end of each day which things you feel good about and which things you still need to work on improving. If you give yourself a break and wait for that end-of-the-day perspective, you’ll likely be less hard on yourself and find inspiration to continue to improve in many areas of your life. There’s less room for thoughts of failure to creep into your life, if you are always focused upon improving and moving the bar up another notch.