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  • Amy Fox

Without Failure Life Would be Boring

Without failure life would be boring. Would it? This idea came to me a while ago, I don’t exactly remember when but it’s very simple. Imagine living a life where you knew, with absolute certainty, that every single project you engage with would be victorious. Every relationship a sweet success. Each endeavour a blazing triumph. Sounds wonderful. Or does it…?

Maybe at first this would feel good to us. Well it could only feel good if we had experienced failure before this. Without the contrast of failure, we would have no reference point to gauge how success really makes us feel. But imagine that, for the rest of your life and from this moment onwards, success is the only outcome. You know that every single person you approach will agree to a date with you. You are guaranteed to get an offer of employment from all job interviews you attend. Well if that’s the case then there would be no space for effort, no point in trying. You wouldn’t need to push yourself so you would never better yourself, you would just stay where you are on Level One of the game of life. I mean, what would be the point in sculpting and refining, creating the best version of yourself, if you could succeed in everything you do by being the most blasé version of you. You wouldn’t need to learn and you wouldn’t need to improve, so how would you get your drive?

And where would be the excitement? You would take everything for granted instead of savouring precious achievements, cherishing moments of personal accomplishment, and holding them sacred as if they were pieces of treasure in your story. To me the concept of succeeding in absolutely everything I do in my life feels like a buzz kill. Of course this is easy to say when, in reality, being faced with life’s harsh challenges and obstacles can be a very painful process. I was listening to a talk with Eckhart Tolle this morning about a very similar idea. The excerpt from his talk is called ‘Why you NEED challenges in your life’ and I’ve included a link to the video at the bottom of this article. Tolle articulates this idea particularly well and I’m going to share what he said to paint a deeper and clearer picture of this idea that 'without failure life would be boring'.

The video begins with a bold and summarising statement in which Tolle suggests that if things don’t get difficult then there is no growth in consciousness. He points out that, as a human, we don’t have an easy life, that NO human has an easy life. He gives an example to illustrate this when he talks of a privileged individual, someone who was born into a trust fund and who would never have to worry about money. On the surface this could seem like an easy life to us, but Tolle explains that this ‘easy life’ would become the greatest obstacle, and cause the greatest amount of suffering, because this individual would turn into a 'very superficial, egoic creature' who would make life difficult for himself and those around him.

Tolle emphasises that you can’t escape the challenges of life and that humans are here in order to be challenged. Dukkha, one of the Four Noble Truths in Buddhism, refers to the ‘suffering’ or ‘unsatisfactoriness’ of life. A person might temporarily fulfil their desires, but suffering – whether physical, emotional or mental – cannot be avoided. Tolle makes the point that this ‘unsatisfactoriness’ will creep in sooner or later, no matter what. Take the example of meeting the person of your dreams, someone who at first you assume will make you very happy, however, sooner or later, this person will also make you unhappy. Tolle goes on to say that you can’t escape it on the human level, and that you need the challenge; you need to challenge yourself if you want to create something, if you want to bring about change in the world, or you want to make your life better. Tolle adds to this that if you don’t push yourself, if you don’t have ambition, then life will challenge you even more. Physical exercise is a good analogy for this. If you don't push your body beyond its comfortable levels of exertion then it won't get stronger. During physical exercise more energy is demanded therefore more energy comes flowing in. And once the energy starts flowing and an influx of energy comes in, then it isn’t perceived as difficult anymore.

You cannot become a more conscious human being unless you experience the challenges of life. If you don’t challenge yourself life will challenge you and you will encounter things you don’t want. I think this statement can be altered slightly to conform with the original idea - we cannot evolve or grow as a human unless we experience failure. Perhaps, going by Tolle's teachings, if we don't fail in some areas of our life then life will bring failure to other areas in order for us to develop as a human being. Once we realise that life is meant to be challenging then we become free of the huge illusion that there’s something wrong when our lives become difficult. The difficulties are necessary, we need them. On a human level the world is not here to make us happy, it can’t do that, it is here to make us conscious by making our lives difficult. (Eckhart Tolle, 2022).

Click this link to see the video referenced in this article.


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