I want to talk about failure.
I mean, no one wants to talk about failure. Ha!
I am sure most of us wish there was no such thing in the English language, but unfortunately (or fortunately, I suggest) all of us have experienced failure in some way, shape or form in our lives.
My relationship with failure has changed dramatically over the past little while.
I have always been someone who has really treated failure like a dirty word.
Ever since I was young I did my best to avoid it at all costs. I usually only attempted things that I felt I would have a modicum of success doing.
If I caught on fast and could get good at it rather quickly early on, I might stick with it, but if something gave me too much grief, if there was too much of a learning curve and I didn’t get that success fairly early on, I would ditch that attempt or activity or whatever I was doing as fast as you can say “done”.
In school I was fairly ok at sports, I had good co-ordination and spatial awareness and reflexes but I was short, which was an early handicap in things like basketball and volleyball. Softball was out of the question because I was terrified of being hit with the ball after getting nailed on the pitcher’s mound once during one of my first games.
Track and field was an epic failure as well as I was a poor runner and high jump, too, was not suitable for my short legs.
So what did I excel at? Triple Jump. Yes, in elementary school I ruled the roost when it came to triple jump because while all the other youngsters were trying to figure out how to master the hoppity hop left left right jump sequence that it requires, my body had already figured it out and I was leaping and bounding myself to blue ribbons. Once the bigger and taller kids figured out how to jump well, I dropped out and lost interest because I wasn’t winning anymore.
My whole life I gravitated towards things I was good at and quickly abandoned anything that made me feel stupid or inadequate. I think like many kids, I sought approval and recognition through my successes and didn’t want to look bad in front of anybody.
Fast forward to today. I have been trying a lot of new things lately in the business side of life and pushing into a lot of new areas that are clearly not my zone of expertise.
I am finding tons of opportunities to want to jump ship and abandon the hard places in favour of things I am naturally good at.
But I am learning something new about myself.
Sometimes things of value take time to learn.
If we only pursue the things we are naturally good at and comfortable with, we never really push into any corners of learning that can open up new, valuable opportunities.
If fear of failure ends up being what holds me back... well, I just can’t afford to go down that road.
So now I am discovering that... it’s actually kind of ok to fail. I learn more from my failures and my stumbles than I do from doing something perfectly (albeit “flukily”) the first time.
I still cringe a little when I discover I’ve made a misstep or mistake, but I am getting better and better at taking it all in stride and chalking it up to “I’m not perfect, I’m learning”.
It feels wonderful to give myself this same freedom and lack of judgement that I would give a friend or associate. It feels nice to cut myself a bit of slack.
There will be more opportunities to do it again but differently next time. Each thing I do that is less than successful I am filing it away in my brain under “experience” and pulling that file next time I get to try it a little differently.
Failure is no longer dirty word. Failure is simply an opportunity to learn and try to do better next time around.
This is also affecting my decision making. Whereas before, I would have been paralyzed in my decision making, unable to choose for fear of making a mistake, now I really feel in my bones there ARE no mistakes. There are none. It’s all a process.
Our yoga practice is kind of like this too, funnily enough. It teaches us that it is ok to fall over, to try again, to get better, slowly, slowly. It shows us that we have to keep showing up for ourselves to learn and make progress in baby steps, that Roma wasn’t built in a day.
It really is true that failure only happens when you give up trying.
Onwards and upwards!