Last week, my niece invited me to her very first Flute concert. I was particularly excited to accept her invitation since I played the flute myself at school. I can recall plenty of flute concerts, exams, and performances around the world with my wind orchestra, including all the nerves that came with it. I was so proud to see her up there, especially since she has only been playing for one term! Unfortunately towards the end of her piece, she lost her place and couldn’t recover. The poor thing was so upset and disappointed in herself. Of course none of the crowd minded, judged, or hardly noticed. We were only full of pride, love, and encouragement. The biggest critic in the room was my niece.
Sound familiar? Isn’t this tendency true of all of us human beings? We are our harshest judge. So much so, that we often end up playing it safe in life in an attempt to avoid disappointment in ourselves, disapproval from others, and/or rejection in general. In fact, our society has conditioned us to fear failure. But why are we so afraid of failure? The Oxford dictionary defines failure as “the lack of success”. Is it even possible to succeed 100% of the time? Perhaps if we lower our criteria for success then it is, but our whole life would then become about avoiding failure and we’d never get to realise the goals and ambitions we set out for ourselves. The bottom line is, if we have goals and ambitions in life, failure is a guarantee.
So whilst we can’t avoid failure, what we can do is learn to become really really comfortable with it. Here is what we keep in mind when we are faced with failure:
- Failure isn’t permanent and it’s not a bad thing. One can fail a number of times before eventually succeeding. And once our goal has been realised, is it really that important how many attempts it took to get there? Check out these 10 celebrities who failed multiple times and then went on to do wondrous things for the world.
- It’s not actually failure itself that we are afraid of, it’s our experience of failure that we seek to avoid. When a threat to our identity has been detected, it triggers our fight or flight / stress response (which isn’t a very pleasant experience). It’s this experience that we have the aversion to and need to address.
- Through meditation and mindfulness, we learn to observe our thoughts as electrochemical reactions in the mind and our emotions as physical sensations in the body. This in turn lessens the negative experience of the stress response that usually comes with a sense of failure.
- Through growth work (such as on our Nourishing Bonds Relationship Seminar), we can train and develop ourselves not to experience failure as a threat to our identity (and thus avoid triggering the intense physiological response to begin with).
Now ask yourself: “what would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail”? Perhaps it is time to go out there and do it!