When did failure become a bad thing? Was it when we entered school and heard about the dreaded “F”? Or when we missed that shot in our first soccer game? For most of us, there was a moment (or several) when we decided failure was something scary, negative and better avoided.
As a coach, I often see people resist failure–and particularly failure related to the things they care about most. When you are committed to something you deeply love–whether it’s a hobby that lights you up, your dream job or taking care of your family–failure stings more deeply and becomes more terrifying.
And, yet, we miss out on so much if we play it safe!
When I started my business, I had a serious wake-up call. If I wanted to grow beyond my current capacities, I would need to put myself out there in a new way. This surely meant I would fail–probably often, and most likely daily. To thrive, I knew I needed to adopt a different perspective. Once I did, failure became less intimidating (and sometimes even a little fun!).
If you’re ready to make big shifts in your life, check out my top recommendations for overcoming resistance to failure:
- Keep it in perspective: Failure is a natural result of action, and action is key to success. If you experienced failure this week, I want to congratulate you! Great work! If you didn’t–why not? What have you been unwilling to try that could be your next step to success? There’s a reason “Fail Faster” became a catchphrase in the Silicon Valley. We learn from each experience.
- Make Failure a Game: In this TED talk, Jane McGonigal speaks about turning goals into games. By creating a culture of play in our challenges, we can eliminate the intensity and seriousness that takes joy out of building something new. I try to fail 10 times each day. I set this goal to encourage myself to try more awesome things, speak to more interesting people, and implement new and potentially rewarding strategies with less resistance. This mindset allows me to own failure, rather than letting failure own me.
- Don’t let failure mean anything about you: Often, failure stings because we take it personally. When you feel this all-too-familiar twinge, ask yourself “What am I making this mean?” The answer may surprise you. In the past, I’ve let failure mean that I was a bad coach, unlovable, or a disappointment to my family. Once I understood these beliefs, I was able to see them for what they were–stories that were simply not true.
- Celebrate your failures (and successes!) with a trusted contact each week: Both failure and success are signs of action–a critical component for creation! Reward yourself for your efforts, and consider what you learned. Ask yourself: What did failure allow me to access this week that I could not have accessed otherwise? I suggest tracking lessons learned so that you can revisit them as you move forward. This is a great way to refine your strategy for success, as well as to track your progress.
If you are failing, you are doing something right. Embrace your experience, learn from each move and have faith in your abilities as a powerful creator. Oh, and don’t forget to smile 🙂
Embrace the Adventure,
To prepare for this post, I researched reflections, scientific studies and musings about intuition. My assessment? Go with your gut. Here are a few reasons why:
1. People out there take intuition seriously: The U.S. Navy studied it, Myers Briggs incorporates it into its popular personality testing used at top business schools, and Steve Jobs says it’s “more powerful than intellect.” Indeed, there’s a lot of potential value in using your intuition. For instance…
2. Intuition allows you to access the power of your unconscious mind: You’re more observant than you think. Throughout the day, your unconscious mind takes in thousands of bits of data, including sounds, smells, body language, and information on our interactions with the world and people around us. This data is not stored or available to us on a conscious level, however it’s available to our unconscious mind to guide us. Dr. Massimo Pigliucci—Professor of Philosophy at CUNY-City College, co-host of the Rationally Speaking Podcast, and the editor in chief for the online magazine Scientia Salon—put this beautifully in a blog post for Tufts University.
“Rather than being opposed to each other, intuition and rationality are strictly interdependent,” he wrote.
Indeed, some people attribute Isaac Newton’s big breakthrough on the universal law of gravitation to his intuition after he saw an apple fall from a tree. If it worked for Newton, it can work for us, too.
3. Following your intuition is a practice in living in possibility: When we let go of our need to control or to understand the why, we allow more space for creativity, peace, opportunity, and dancing in the moment. If we go with our intuition and commit to make the most of the situations that arise, we learn to be fully present creators. Often, when we commit to achieving something bigger—something beyond our knowing or what we have done before—we are not sure how to create it. The how is not up to us. We must simply listen to intuition, decide, take action and watch how things unfold. Often, opportunities arise that we never could have imagined.
Vulnerability: where do you feel vulnerable right now?
For me, writing this email was a lesson in vulnerability. This week was extremely confronting–a family I love suffered a terrible loss, I jumped from part-time work into full-time entrepreneurship, and I prepared to open a new venue in Washington, DC. I faced a lot of uncertainty and many different emotions, including fear, grief, joy, gratitude, and inspiration.
When I sat down to write this email, I realized I wanted to appear a certain way, rather than be vulnerable and authentic. And yet, in recent months, I’ve learned that vulnerability can foster one of two things. By running from vulnerability, we isolate ourselves. By opening to it, we build our bonds with others.
In the last few months, I’ve chosen to get messy with vulnerability–to get in the ring and duke it out when necessary–and I’d like to share a few short (and humbling) stories of the results:
When I decided to quit my job, I dreaded telling my coworkers. I thought they would feel betrayed and angry. Instead, when I shared the news, my boss asked, “How can we support you?” Each person in the office understood my need to follow my dreams. And, once I was completely open with them, I felt my relationship with my colleagues flourish. In this case, vulnerability gave me access to authenticity and the space to pursue my calling.
With My Friends:
Death often intimidates me. As an empath, the sorrow I feel in the people left behind can be overwhelming. When I heard the news of my friend’s son’s passing, I wasn’t sure if I should reach out. What if the family felt I was intruding? What if they wanted to be alone? What if I cried during the visit and it seemed inappropriate? Instead, they welcomed the support from me and other friends. At their home, we met the extended family and were inspired by their love, strength, and openness. In this case, my vulnerability allowed me to serve my friend in his time of need and to grow closer to him.
With My Family:
As I prepared to leave my job this week, I had a tense conversation with my mom. I noticed I was short with her. I noticed I felt angry at her for no reason. I noticed I did not want to share all of the hopes and fears I had about my work. Instead of digging in my heels, however, I allowed myself to get vulnerable in an email:
“This adaption period is rough,” I said. “If I ever sound like a bitch, call me on it. Tell me to get real. Ask me to be honest with you about how I’m feeling. I may get angry or I may cry–those are both important parts of my processing right now. I know my coping mechanisms are to get passive aggressive or hide what I’m doing. Obviously, neither of those works well for our family or for my business. Thanks for understanding and for being as committed to my dream as I am. It means a lot to know that you are on my side.”
By getting vulnerable, I was able to enlist my dearest support network (my family) in my transition. Rather than reinforcing negative patterns of communication, I introduced a new level of intimacy. The result? Beautiful words of encouragement from both my parents.
So many times, we resign to make the journey into the unknown alone. But why? We fiercely protect our independence at the expense of the opportunity to transform our closest relationships.
As Brene Brown said, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of everything we’re hungry for.” She’s right–whether it’s in love, our career, our self-care, or any other area of our lives.
So, let’s come back to the original question: Where do you feel vulnerable right now? This weekend, I invite you to consider the following questions.
What does it look like when I am scared to be vulnerable? (In other words, what do you do or how do you act when things feel out of control?)
What are the benefits of avoiding vulnerability?
What are the drawbacks?
What would be possible if I could put my fear aside?
When you study and nurture your vulnerability, you find your largest areas for growth. When you learn to work with your vulnerability, you can create a new reality.