I have a history of being terrified of failing. I thought that failing meant being hopeless, exposed to judgment, made fun of, left without needs met. I would have much rather flailed, moving aimlessly in circles, just to avoid taking a chance at something I might not be able to do, or be skilled at, immediately. This resistance to fail, to be a beginner, kept me from experiencing a lot. Instead of trying new things that I truly cared about, I sought control and my world shrunk. I drank, did drugs, abused my body, the list goes on. I didn't want to be a failure, which meant I was stuck spinning in circles and getting nowhere I really wanted to be. Do you relate?
My perspective on failing has changed drastically since being sober and in recovery from an eating disorder. Life has a way of transforming us through the tough times, when we are willing to fail.
Isn't spinning in circles and feeling stuck the worst?
What's more painful than failing is flailing. The torture that confusion can create is worst than the bruised ego failing can cause. John C. Maxwell, one of the top leadership speakers and experts in the world, says that "Failing is fertilizer. It shakes the soul and lets the glory out.” Maxwell speaks to the power of failing, especially when we fail forward.
Don't get me wrong. I bristle at the thought of falling on my face. Who wants to be seen making a mess? This failing forward thing is a practice, not somewhere to arrive. Instead of taking failure fiercely, learning to flow with it makes the benefits of failing available.
Anything worthwhile is going to test us, challenge us, stretch us out of our comfort zone. It will push buttons we didn't know we had, calling our higher selves forth. To achieve greatness, whatever that means for you, will require failing.
Think about it: no one starts an expert at anything. That means failing is part of the process of becoming skilled, successful, significant.
The idea that we can become overnight successes is just a fantasy. Any "overnight success" has 10+ years of work under their belt. Look at anyone you admire and you'll find quiet hours, day, weeks, years of dedication that got no applause.
When left to your own devices, do you flail or fail?
Where do you see resistance to failing in your everyday life?
By asking these questions, we can move from the distracting and dead end patterns of flailing, focusing on things that don't matter, being swayed by emotions and reactivity into a territory with more meaning and magic. Failing intentionally, with enthusiasm and focus through every detour, is how we achieve what we desire. This is a game changing choice.
In recovery and in life, failing can be scary. The fears come out when this F word is spoken. Will I be judged? Will I be abandoned? Will I be alone? Will my needs be met? Can I recover from rejection? These are some of the fears I hear a lot and have been through myself.
The fears keep us flailing. In its nature, it is unsteady and leaves no room to be grounded in trust, to be powerful and on purpose.
Turning the fear of failure on its side will change your life. By facing fear and letting failure splay us open, exposing what we truly desire and are willing to change for, we become free to grow through every learning curve we go through.
Failure is not a life sentence or proof that what you fear is real. It is just a step in the process, in progress. Failing forward is proof of character.
Our dreams are worth failing for.
Whatever it takes, as long as it takes.
What is that dream in you that makes failure fertilizer?
How exactly do we fail forward?
Follow these simple steps, use them to guide your mind and actions:
1. Stay positive (attitude is almost everything).
2. Celebrate the little and big wins (appreciation is a quiet gift that everyone benefits from).
3. Reframe doubt wherever possible (turn doubts into affirmations of what you want + practice focusing on those future wins instead).
4. Stay connected with people you trust who will give you honest feedback (i.e. mentor, coach, therapist).
5. Keep your goals and plans in front of you (if you quit because of one failed attempt, what will never come to be?).
6. Remember what you don't want to go back to (pain of the past can be a great motivator to change).
7. Keep learning about things that light you up.
8. Get in circles with others who are growth oriented and driven to defy the odds of fear (association goes a long way).
9. Create a game plan to achieve your dreams, one step at a time (action, action, action).
10. See every failure as a step toward success (how many attempts did Benjamin Franklin have before the lightbulb worked?!).
Are you convinced that it's time to fail by now?
Isn't it time to stop flailing and focus instead?
With focus and dedication to living on purpose, regardless of what that is for you today, creating significance can and does happen. Learning about what you truly value and nurturing your dreams requires bravery and focus to follow through on. It is the most worthwhile journey we will ever take, that of being true to ourselves and making an impact on our world. It is through deciding to commit to ourselves and what we care about that failure is no longer an enemy. It becomes a friend. Failure becomes the fertilizer for the gardens that are guaranteed to bring harvest. It's not about if, it's about when.
What area is asking you to fail forward and move closer to your dreams?
How has distraction kept you flailing and confused?
What dream calls you into courage to face fear and fail forward now?
Trust that deep down desire to live and thrive living below the fear or flailing you are currently with. Face fear and turn that bully into a teammate instead!
Be in touch with what you discover and share how you are ready to fail (forward).
For support on gaining clarity and beginning this journey, contact me for a coaching consultation here.
Darcy Helene Meehan
As an advocate of Reinvention + Recovery, I work with clients to achieve balance, alignment and purpose in all areas