If you don't believe me on this one, believe Churchill! Or Thomas Edison. Or Michael Jordan. Or Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Or pretty much anyone who's reached the top of their game at some stage in their life.
I was the same as you – terrified of getting things wrong, giving the wrong answer, or falling short of perfection in goals I’d set myself, whether I’d voiced these to other people or not. We double the pressure we put ourselves under in the face of failure, firstly to not disappoint ourselves, and also for fear of judgement or rejection if we disappoint others. So, let’s break this down…
Firstly, if someone said they had a dream and wanted to achieve something big, but for whatever reason they failed to achieve it, would you reject them, love them any less, ‘unfriend’ them (on FB or in the real world)? Most likely you would feel compassion for them and want to sympathise with them – quite the opposite of what we imagine when we are the ones failing. But very often, we attach SHAME to our failures and therefore project a whole load of additional emotional baggage onto the ‘failure’ which doesn’t belong there, and which keeps us trapped in our secret shame, isolating ourselves from love and help, and unable to move forwards. So, the biggest favour you can do is to talk about your dreams AND the things you didn’t achieve and realise that people don’t judge you nearly as harshly as you judge yourself – quite the opposite in fact. You will probably find a whole lot of LOVE, SUPPORT and UNDERSTANDING coming your way when you finally open up.
There are two other main things to get clear on:
- failures – or not achieving your goal immediately – are actually some of the most beneficial learning experiences we can have in life
- failures also give us clarity on whether our goals are really where we want to be heading so we can adjust our course, or our evaluation system
Back to the first of those – the learning experience. Thomas Edison made over 1000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. If he’d given up at failure number one, or even 100, perhaps we’d still be living in darkness. He learned from each attempt at a light bulb what he needed to do differently next time! This is the essence of learning – not focusing purely on what didn’t work and giving up, but taking that and using it to refine our learning experience. Step by step we come closer to the truth.
The second of those points, is that we get to clarify our initial goals. Often projects change shape, are refined and improved in the process of moving towards the goal in a ‘trial and error’ rather than linear fashion. One of my greatest ‘Aha!’ moments was my first failed attempt at 100m – I blacked out on the surface, but was ecstatic all the same; I’d learned that I could equalise to 100m, a fact that was far more interesting, relevant and exciting to me, than whether I gained another world record title. Going deeper into this lesson with further ‘failures’, I learned that the numbers, titles and records are actually completely irrelevant to my diving experience – they simply cloud the real truth of the bliss being in the experience of each individual dive, not the media frenzy and ego-party that comes from ‘being the best’.
So, I invite you, next time you are heading towards a goal and for some reason don’t make it, look firstly at what you can learn from the experience – this way there is NEVER a bad day in the water; and then use it to see if your motivation truly is a new record or whether it just might be the personal satisfaction and sense of growth and expansion you get through learning the techniques and lessons you need to take you to a new depth instead.
And lastly, go easy on yourself – failures are as much a blessing to us from the Universe as the ‘good’ stuff, it’s simply our mind and projections that make them bad. So the next time you turn early, or black-out, when you come up or open your eyes, remember to smile, get clear on what you need to do differently next time, and laugh about it. You’ll soon start to enjoy the failures as much as the ‘perfect’ dives too!
To explore this topic and your relationship to your failures more deeply, get a copy of my latest Yoga for Freediving programme, Success & Failure. For just $50, it’s a whole treasure-trove of learning and wisdom, for the price of a noseclip!