The "F" Word

Updated: Nov 23, 2021

We dread it, we resist it, we feel like we want to avoid it at all costs...that ever present potential possibility of...failure. We have all tried many things in our lives. Some we have tried and succeeded. Others we have tried and failed. Sometimes failed miserably. How we deal with our failures can shape our whole trajectory and outlook on life.

When we're babies, we constantly try...we're learning everything and so we're constantly curious and trying things. We don't easily give up. If we gave up after trying to walk just once, we'd never go anywhere! We try again and again to roll over until one day, we can. Then we figure out how to crawl, and start attempting to stand up, falling right back down time and time again until we don't anymore. Then we take our first steps, even one or two steps being a huge and exciting accomplishment that we keep expanding on and increasing until we are striding with ease. After that there's pretty much no stopping us, we learn to hop, skip, jump and run...all by trying over and over again. When we're young, we seem to trust that if we try, we will eventually succeed. What if we could keep living our lives with that same assuredness, curiosity and persistence, even as we encounter more complex endeavors to attempt?

As we grow, we learn from our experiences. There may be some things we try and realize, appropriately, that they're not actually in our best interest, so we don't do them anymore. Other things we try and they feel more difficult to persist at, so we give up. Maybe we get frustrated by perceived repeated failures...not finishing what we start, not following through on what we want, or feeling disappointed in things we tried that didn't work out and we don't have the support and encouragement to keep trying or to even figure out if they are things we want to keep trying or things we want to let go of. Then we just get stuck in negative thought processes about them.

As we go through life we, of course, have some successes. We often figure out what we're good at, naturally and gravitate towards those things, hone our skills and maybe even become excellent at them. They might even become our professional work or something we make money doing. We put in the time and effort and gain real confidence and mastery in that area, but other areas of our lives feel more difficult or may completely allude us and we end up feeling like a failure in those areas.

Sometimes when we experience a "failure" in our lives, like a failed relationship or a failed attempt at something, we end up feeling hurt or betrayed or profoundly disappointed. If it involves another person, it can be easy to blame them for it completely, closing off our hearts in order to not feel that way again, and end up missing the gift it has given us or the insight that we needed in order to have success in the future. We might even feel like feeling hurt, disappointed, sad, angry or betrayed is in itself a failure, not knowing how to reflect on and process those emotions in order to move through them. We may eventually stop trying for fear of failing. We find excuses, create "safe problems", reasons for not trying because we're afraid of the outcome, afraid of going through what we've experienced before. Sometimes we're afraid of failing, but we can also be afraid of succeeding.

What if by dreading, resisting, and avoiding it we're actually missing out on what failure has to offer? What's beyond failure that we're never getting to by avoiding it so persistently?

It is not always easy, but if we can learn how to take the time to reflect and stay curious about what the gift, lesson or silver lining might be, we can move ourselves forward rather than staying attached to the outcomes of past experiences. Have you ever been fired from a job that you didn't really like but stayed in because you needed the money, only to have a better job come along that you weren't expecting or couldn't imagine? Have you ever been stuck in a relationship that wasn't working, that you stayed in for a sense of security, comfort or obligation, only to have it end and free you up to discover the love of your life? The universe tends to help us out in ways that we can't foresee, steering us on a path that might not always be clear to us and might not always feel great at the time, but ultimately is helping us move and grow to our highest potential. Often times we are moving along on a path we've chosen, only to have something happen that feels like a misstep or a detour that is actually an opportunity to understand something better or more clearly that we wouldn't have otherwise discovered.

Take some time this week to reflect on any times in your life when a "failure" has been a gift. What might be some areas of your life that are energetically stuck due to a fear of failure or an attachment to past experiences. What can we do to build our trust in all that our experiences have to offer, including the failures? When does our ego and thinking get in the way of letting our heart and intuition guide us?

Here's a practice to try: whenever you're thinking about trying something and feeling a bit afraid or unsure, imagine beforehand that you will fail at it. Let yourself feel what that would be like. We can get too attached to the idea of NOT failing that it can actually sabotage our efforts (what we resist, persists), and it can be helpful to embrace the failure so that the energy doesn't keep you held to it. Experiment a little and see if you can find the curiosity, trust, and non-judgement you had as a little one and bring even a small percentage of that back into your daily life.

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