Wednesday, July 10, 2013
the joy of failure
I don't have control over everything. Sometimes my plans will not work out the way I hope. Sometimes a risk I take flops. Sometimes I fail.
The thought of taking risks evokes two major emotions in me: excitement and terror. And that's because taking risks usually leads in two directions: success or failure. In my mind success = good and failure = bad.
I'm the kind of person that puts a lot of value in achievements. I loved getting good grades in school. I love reaching goals. I feel better about myself when I'm growing and doing. And because I love succeeding, I tend to take calculated risks. For example, I had a basic understanding of pitch and rhythm in high school, not so much with the running and kicking. So I tried out (and made) the chorus for the annual musical; I stayed far away from the soccer field and any chance of being told I wasn't good enough to make the team.
Then in college, I took a calculated risk and failed big time. And everybody (in my world) knew about it. My parents, my friends, my family, other students, adult mentors. I felt like my world was falling apart. It took me several months and a summer vacation to recover from the hit to my self-confidence. But it was one of the most valuable experiences of my time in college.
I learned a tiny piece of this invaluable lesson: my self-worth is not tied to my accomplishments, my successes, or my failures. I am who I am no matter how many letters I have behind my name, how many "A"s I earn, or how many promotions I get at work (none yet). I still have worth no matter how many succulents I fail to keep alive (see photo above).
The true joy of failure is freedom. Freedom from attachment to success. Freedom to take less calculated risks. Freedom from perfection. Freedom to make a fool out of myself and still be happy with who I am at the end of the day. Freedom to explore who I am and who I'm not. Being too tied to the need to achieve slowly narrows your world until there are no chances, no risks, no questions, no possibilities left to explore. So yes, please, I think I'll take some of that failure. But in moderation please.