Failure or Defeat?

Failure and defeat are often used interchangeably, but in fact they are very different things when it comes to working toward a goal. For the purpose of this discussion we are using the Noun for both words.

The dictionary definition of failure is: “an act or instance of failing or proving unsuccessful; lack of success”.

The definition of defeat is: “the act of being overcome in a contest; a setback; the act or event of being bested; losing”.

Napoleon Hill, in his book, “Law of Success” spends an entire chapter on “Profiting by Failure”. He says, “Defeat, like a headache, warns us that something has gone wrong. If we are intelligent we look for the cause and profit by the experience.” He then proceeds to give seven examples of how he had been defeated in life, and how when looking at those defeats in retrospect he learned valuable lessons that could not have been learned any other way to move him toward success.

Defeat happens to every one of us in small ways often, and it big ways occasionally. If you take time to look back over your life you’ll find several times you were defeated. This can include things like being laid off from a job, an automobile accident, or succumbing to the temptation to miss your 30 minutes of physical exercise because the day just got too busy.

How we handle defeat in our lives is what determines whether we ultimately fail or succeed at the thing we had planned before the defeat happened. I believe the most important thing anyone can do when defeat comes is to step back and look at it as an opportunity to grow and become better. One of my great mentors, Jim Rohn said, “Don’t wish things were easier – Wish you were better!” And Sir Winston Churchill said, “An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity; a pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity.”

In the moment of defeat we are often demoralized, and allowing that emotion to settle in can bring a cascade of negative thoughts and fear that I’ve seen paralyze even the most positive of people. Left unchecked it can bring depression and put us into a downward spiral that can bring failure.

Let’s take losing weight as an example. This is a big challenge for many people because there is often a cycle of defeats that turn into postponement of the goal. The only way to break that cycle is to develop the habit of looking at the defeat(s) and creating a habit to replace the thinking and behavior with “slight edge” wins that reinforce our desire to reach the goal and lose the weight over time. Remember that “quantum leaps” to success are unsustainable. Just use the defeats as a way to find habits that bring ultimate success.

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