Sunday, September 20, 2009
Living with failure
Do you ever feel that empty pit in the bottom of your stomach, after realising something you've spent a great deal of time doing, doesn't work out the way you planned? If I'm completely honest, I've always been a bit of a perfectionist so learning to live with failure has been quite a bumpy ride.
In the beginning I thought it was just me and my personality - as everyone else seemed to get on fine in their life. If they made a mistake, they'd shrug it off or just try harder. I thought I was the only person in the world who made a big deal out of failure. Of course, looking a little harder, I realsie it's not the case.
Would you believe that even my garden could cause me to feel like a failure at times too? I bet you could, as I know I'm not the only one. When a plant dies after carefully nurturing it, or a whole garden is wiped out by natural causes, we instinctively feel impelled to blame something for it. If it wasn't the weather, our environment, or the politicians we elect - then the next culprit is ourselves. We obviously didn't do enough.
This whole process could be avoided however, if people accepted failure as having a useful place in our society. People always adapt, despite failure, if they can accept it isn't the end of all things we hold dear. Success doesn't mean the best thing to ever happen to us. Just as failure doesn't mean the worst.
Next time you're feeling down on yourself, or some aspect in society - take another look at what you're really trying to do. Maybe you don't want to invite failure into your own life, by accepting it exists at all?
As a former perfectionist obsessed with avoiding failure, I'm here to say that it's here to stay. I feel liberated that I don't have to worry about it's presence in the world. I don't have to defeat it or change it; because that way only saps your energy further.
I've been walking around my garden lately, feeling energised by the imperfections and things I haven't gotten around to yet. It doesn't rain enough for my garden, but the dry weather means I get more construction work done. Our retaining wall still looks like a dirt pile - no lush plants yet; but it's not harrowing me to finish it either. It will wait patiently for me, if I have the patience to accept where it's currently at.
It feels great that I don't have to change things which aren't really controlled by me anyway. Things like time, weather and life in general. The things I can change however, feel more meaningful to me. That's because I have the energy and sanity to appreciate them more now.
So next time you feel that empty pit in the bottom of your stomach, make a treaty with it. Let failure have it's time, and conserve your positive energies for the things you are able to make a difference to in life.