Understanding That There Is Only One Way To Fail



We just celebrated the winter solstice. Yes! That means that days are getting longer, and… the year is coming to a close.


It is during this time of year that I take the time for reflection, as well as intention setting for the year to come.


I make the time to look back on the last year and celebrate the life that I have lived. The changes I have made, ways I have grown, challenges I endured, experiences I was blessed with, people I love, and lessons I have learned. I take the time to express gratitude for my life. All of my life.


Then from those lessons and experiences I look forward. Setting intentions on how I want to show up in my life. Things that I want to let go of, as well as things that I want to embrace.


As I have been asking myself these questions over the last couple of weeks I have gained a lot of clarity.  A surprising amount of clarity. The kind of “Ah-ha’s” that take your breath away. They hit you so hard that you find yourself stumbling, and kinda numb. Shocked I think is the best word do describe it.


You see, a few years ago I had set the intention to do things that I was afraid of. It all started because I truly thought that I wasn’t afraid of anything! Then, once my ignorance and denial stepped aside, I realized that I just avoided everything I was afraid of. In this specific moment of clarity it was around teaching yoga. I realized the reason I hadn’t completed my yoga certification was because I was deathly afraid of standing in front of a room full of students. In that moment it became clear that I had to teach. And I did, for the entire year. 


Similar to that moment a few years ago when I realized my connection to fear, I was recently hit again with a moment (or moments) of clarity. 


It started with the idea of failure.  I REALLY don’t like to fail.  I don’t even like the words failure. Failure all too often has a negative association with it. Despite the fact that our “failure” is actually a lesson. When we have an ideal outcome and it doesn’t happen we “fail” but in truth we learned what didn’t work. We walk away wiser, we walk away a better person, not a lesser person.  


So… on that note, I was at a business workshop this past weekend when my idea of failure was blown to pieces.  Leah, the owner of a couple yoga studios here in Seattle, gave a short talk about her journey of being an entrepreneur. She shared that she kept telling herself “I will not fail. I will not fail. I will not fail.  To fail is to not try. And be damned, I am giving this my all."


To fail is to not try.


Whoa! Well there you have it. 

In that moment I was hit, with a ton of bricks of reality.


Those same underlying beliefs about myself are still ruling my behaviors.  My perfectionism is still lurking within me. 



The fear that I will fail if I try…. so I don’t try.  

That’s why I don’t try.


Oh, but wait, that actually means I am failing. 

The only failure is not to try



As the Dalai Lama said:

“Forget the failures. Keep the lessons.”


Last night over dinner I had a very powerful conversation about self, beliefs and behaviors.  I believe it started with my “failure to try” or my resistance to put myself out there (specifically relating to work).


As I started to talk I started to cry (nothing new for me) but in that moment, as I was sitting around a table with two loving and supportive men, that weren’t attacking me, that were actively listening to me I started to see my tears as something new.  My tears were a replacement to words


In my home growing up I couldn’t use my voice to explain how I felt. I wasn’t heard, I never felt understood. So I cried. I used tears in place of my words.  As words often failed me, tears NEVER failed me. I wasn’t always given permission or space to speak my emotions, so the only way I could comfortably express them was with tears. AND… if that didn’t work, or wouldn't do I would throw my words hurtfully. I would yell.


Clarity part one… (of the evening).


Next, once again seeing my resistance to put myself out there, to “act” as if I have something to offer.  Why do I have so much fear to reach out to adult, parents, counselors, coaches, teachers, etc?  


Yep, it all comes back to that inner voice, the self-critic that is tearing me down, or keeping me small and weak.   There is the part of me that rules how I live life, and there is the part of me that has yet to be heard, embrace and believed. The part of me that has something to offer. The part of me that is worthy.  


The part of me that I typically give airtime is that part of me that holds me back.  The voice that says I have nothing to offer. The voice that believes that I will be ridiculed, judged and seen as less than.


A voice that I heard spoken to me time and time again.  “You can’t do anything right!”  Most things I did as a child I was ridiculed for. It was never good enough. Therefore I was never good enough. Smart enough. Kind enough. Talented enough. Strong enough. Flexible enough. Skinny enough. Pretty enough. I tried with all my might to be more, to be better. To be loved and accepted. To be enough. I was so convinced that when I was perfect then I would be loved and accepted. I would finally be enough. I always fell short. Day after day. Year after year. Striving to be this person that I wasn’t, and in the process loosing track of who I was to begin with.


And so, as my life journey continued I continued to struggle with perfectionism. When trying something new I HAD to instantly be good at it, even if for the very first time trying. I was so afraid to fail, as a child I was ridiculed for doing something poorly, I feared I would be ridiculed again.  And I was, by me.  My distaste for being poor at something, at "failing," eventually drove me from wanting to try anything new. 


I became frozen in fear. I would rather not try, and avoid the feelings of failure, then to try and in the process learn. 


Clarity part 2 of the evening.


Fear has been my approach to most of life, and as a result, I have missed out on experiencing many things that life has to offer. 


And… the few things that I manage to try, I struggle to find enjoyment in. If I am not innately good, than the experience is excruciating. Learning to cross country ski? Mostly yelling, cursing, and crying. Fun and enjoyment were no wear to be found. 


Another personal belief I have struggled with is that I am holding people back. For example, if I am a slow learner, and others have grasped the content, but I am still processing… I am holding the other students back.  If I am hiking, and I am slower than the rest of the group, I am holding people back.  


I HATE being in the way. 

I hate being in a position where I can be ridiculed and judged.  


Therefore I either do what I am doing really fast and well, or I don't to it at all. 

There we have it again, not doing. Not trying. Failing.


I am sure there are many things in my life that I have unconsciously avoided because of my fear of failure. Learning languages, or how to play instruments, and most likely the driving force for not wanting to have children.



And yet, with all this clarity, I can sense that I am ridiculing myself as I share this.  Yes, I have failed to try. I have allowed fear to drive my choices. I have allowed my beliefs about myself to influence my behaviors. 
There are some that believe that we choose our families that we are born into. We choose the lessons we want to learn, or our soul needs to heal. Perhaps this is true. Perhaps that view is helpful for some.


What I do know is I still have plenty of lessons to learn, and ways to grow. I still have plenty of places in my life where I haven’t shown up. That I haven’t given it an honest go. I haven’t tried.


It is time to try.


So, in the year to come I am going to try.

I am going to try to not listen to the voice of fear and self ridicule. I am going to try by putting myself out there. I am going to do things that make me feel uncomfortable, and I know that the gremlins in my mind will be there to tell me what they usually say. I will try not to believe them.  


I will not fail, I will not fail, I will not fail.  Because damnit, I am going to try. 


And in the words of Sia, "You can do anything."


The lessons in life are endless as long as we are alive.

Keep living.

Keep trying. 

Keep the lessons.