When I succeed, I don’t necessarily “become” a success. I’m not sure there is such a thing as a creature called “a success.” Perhaps I sometimes believe that when I succeed, I will become that creature and feel differently.
When I use my feelings as a gauge for my success, I end up feeling like a “failure.” Again, there is no such animal. As I read in a testimonial on a very comforting website once, “Just because I fail does not mean I am a failure.”
The fact is that a “success” is really just a person who is doing what it takes to succeed. That includes recovering from failure when it occurs. I think it’s interesting that, by this definition, a “success” fails frequently.
If this is important information for me, it’s even more important for my students. Many of them face failure on a regular basis as they struggle to achieve basic tools that they need for success. Because the stakes are so high, it’s much easier for them to decide they either are or aren’t a success, rather than doing the work of succeeding.
If they are struggling for success, I want them to recognize the means by which they have succeeded. That way, when they start to get good, and are angry that they still make mistakes, they will understand that, while they have changed as a result of their success, some of the things they need to do have not.
When success feels like failure, it can undermine everything we do. Clearly, being a success includes taking these feelings into account and putting them into perspective. Would we expect a marathon runner to feel energized at the successful end of the race?