A few months back I was lured into a gourmet chocolate shop by the smells emanating from within. It was a relatively new store with the owner and his partner running the shop by themselves. As my husband and I approached the counter, he warmly greeted us. I began to inspect the chocolate bars on display, looking for the quality of the ingredients. After watching a documentary on the chocolate industry, I'm really particular about chocolate. I can't remember exactly what I asked, but he began sharing a little about how his chocolate journey began. He was clearly entrepreneurial in spirit, but one thing he said stuck with me. When he initially considered becoming a chocolatier, he thought to himself, "It's cocoa. It's sugar. How hard can it be?" He laughed at his recollection and said that he initially made some really bad chocolate. He'd make a batch, taste it, cock his head to the side...and really want it to taste good. He knew deep down that it was horrible and his partner kept him in check. She simply said, "Ohhh...no" after each of those initial batches. 😂
What struck me about his story was his willingness to just jump in, despite not knowing the first thing about fine chocolate. His idealism (or maybe confidence or privileged perspective) propelled him. Despite his initial lack of knowledge and initial failures, he's now running a very successful, highly-rated, and high-end chocolate shop. He also runs an ethically-minded business by maintaining relationships with the farmers who provide his cacao. He experienced failure. He learned from his failure. And he kept moving forward to make his vision a reality.
As INFJs, we don't usually jump into action without a careful analysis of the potential outcome—and copious amounts of research. We have very high expectations of ourselves, and we're focused on the ideal version of how we want things to turn out. We don't like failing to meet those expectations. We often run into trouble when we delay action due to the need to learn more. We also hit a roadblock when we chisel our expectations into stone and reject anything less. We inadvertently chain our feet together by thinking that everything must be 100% exactly right before we move forward. We sometimes even feel that we must be full of passion for our new adventure/job/side-gig/etc. every moment—or it must not be the right thing.
It's easy to look at someone else's story and think, "I could never do that." I'll admit that I had that fleeting thought when the chocolatier shared his story. As INFJs, we already know that we approach things differently than most people. Our more planned INFJ approach is not better or worse. His jump-right-in approach is not better or worse. Both approaches could lead to various levels of failure. What matters in both cases is the willingness to move forward, no matter what might happen.
3 Things That Happen When INFJs Allow Failure as an Option
What might happen if you accept that "failure" is part of the process? What if you remind yourself that your first attempt at something may not be your best attempt? Here are three things you just might experience if you allow failure as an option.
1. You can get unstuck.
When a fear of failure is keeping you stuck, accepting that failure is part of the process frees you to put one foot in front of the other. The chocolatier could have easily given up after his horrible initial attempts. His actual experience at making chocolate was much different than the way he envisioned the process. But yet he still continued. He didn't remain stuck in the muck of his horrible first attempts.
2. You release pressure to reach perfection.
It's so freeing to recognize that the first iteration of whatever you produce doesn't have to be perfect. You realize that a failure, or mistake, doesn't define you. It's not a comment on your worth or your overall abilities. You see that no one is judging you as harshly as you judge yourself. You realize you can hold the ideal of perfection in one hand and the reality of the journey in the other.
3. You redefine "failure."
When you accept "failure" as an option from the start, you begin to see that failure is not defeat. It's not a lack of success. You reframe it as a step on the way to the final destination. It's an opportunity to gain feedback and fine-tune things. You normalize it. I once worked as a Director of Communications for a girls' middle school in which a math teacher included identifying "mistakes" as part of various assignments and projects. This allowed the girls to celebrate all the steps they took. The way the girls reframed their trial and error learning experience was incredible! If you're interested, you can watch this video in which I interviewed this teacher and her students about their innovative math program. Her approach to mistakes is discussed at 1:40.
What's something you haven't started because you won't allow yourself to fail? Examine your response (or lack of response) to this situation. How would you prefer to respond?
Think about a recent situation in which you experienced a version of failure. How can you approach situations like this in the future? To gain a new perspective, it's helpful to think about what you would say to someone else or what you wish was said to you as a child. So, what would you say to a loved one who experienced some sort of failure? What do you wish was said to you about failure when you were a little girl? You might consider writing a letter to your future self (or recording a voice memo or video) with these words of wisdom. Next time you experience a perceived failure, read that letter to yourself or listen to your voice memo or video.
How do you look at failure? I'd love to know. Comment below to share your perspective.