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Redefining Failure

May 07, 20232 min read

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Thomas Edison

Failure is such an awful word, but it is only awful because we have made it that way. Failure is really just a word. A word that is defined by Merriam-Webster as “an omission of occurrence; lack of success; a falling short”.  It is just 7 letters written on a page, but stringing these letters together and saying them makes us feel uncomfortable emotions. The emotions are present because when we are thinking about “failure” or “failing”, we immediately begin judging ourselves.

I am a recovering perfectionist who wants to be a great mother, fantastic physician and coach, committed partner, and a healthy athlete. I try to juggle each of these roles on any given day. Each of these roles is independently hard and requires energy and focus. The roles become even more challenging when exhaustion creeps in after a sleepless night because Kyleigh’s blood sugar was wacky. It is often inevitable on these days that a ball will be dropped during my juggling act. Thoughts of failure will begin to creep in.

I can’t deny that I have failed because according to the definition, my inability to maintain all my balls in the air was “a falling short”. The negativity that follows is because I beat myself up for falling short and I make it mean that I am the worst mother, physician/coach, partner or athlete. I judge myself for not being able to reach my goal that day.

Failure does not need to include judgement. With awareness, these judgmental thoughts can be acknowledged and stopped. It has become easier to stop judging myself when I understood that failure nothing more than data gathering. As a physician scientist, I love data and use it to create treatment plans with my patients. I can use the data to see what worked and what didn’t work for patient similar to my own. I have learned to use these scientific skills in my own life and collect data to help become the best version of myself. Failure means the data is telling me that I need to do things differently next time. On days that I have dropped one of my balls, it doesn’t mean that I am the worst person. It merely means that the data is telling me that I need more sleep to do better the next day.

I create treatment plans for my patients every day. I would never be confident in the treatment plan if I didn’t consider the data. Failure is necessary for our life’s plans. I want to know how to grow and improve, but the only way to do this is to try and possibly fail. Data gathering is just part of the process.

What are you making failure mean?

Book a call and let's talk about ways we can reframe failure.

Let's Thrive!


Maureen Michele, MD

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