Recently I was working with a client who became aware of how ‘fear of failure’ was getting in the way of their path to a new life direction. Throughout our conversation, we explored the positive role failure can have in our life and how we can use it to empower ourselves in the midst of failure rather than be paralysed with fear or stone-walled by it.
Part of our discussion included the analogy of an athlete, whose muscles need to break down before they can re-build them bigger and stronger. In this way, muscles need to ‘fail’ in order to become stronger, which can contribute toward overall longevity of health. Moreover, we can rebuild and repair our muscles through eating or taking in proper amounts and sources of amino-acids (proteins). Since only 20-30% of our muscles are made up of protein (the rest is water), we must eat enough protein to give our muscles the building blocks they need to get bigger and sustain their core strength. We also need to allow enough time for rest and recovery for our muscles to rebuild.
Just like every autumn when the leaves fall, life breaks down, only to re-build and potentially become bigger and stronger following the winter’s rest – given the proper nourishment and growing conditions. I suggested that failure is inherent in the fabric of our existence. We need to come to terms with failure and gain the wisdom and power we can from our failures, including in our relationships.
One of the powers of doing daily spiritual practices is that we begin to build acceptance and equanimity about what is happening in the Now, in the present moments of our day and life. Exercising the power of acceptance when failure strikes us provides us with the ‘protein source’ for re-building. We will all fail. It’s integral to living! If we fear failure, we will fear living. When we fear living, we will shortchange ourselves of the best kind of relationships we deserve.
Good healthy relationships in which we feel connected and secure and loved sustain us, even in the midst of life’s most difficult challenges. Studies repeatedly highlight the power of healthy and connected relationships as the ‘protein source’ for good health and mental well-being.
One of the self-destructive habits we fall into with ‘having failed’ is that we hide what happened, sometimes with ourselves and often with others. The result is that the shame of these failures begins to disintegrate our sense of worthiness and confidence in our capacity to be loved because we ‘have failed’. This feeling and habit of shame – which takes many forms such as withdrawal, hiding, aggressiveness, criticizing and blaming, or even trying to annihilate ourselves in the extreme – can often show up as conflict and disconnection in relationship, especially with those who matter most, whether personal or collegial.
Rather than let our failures destroy us, I suggest we find ways to benefit from them. The following strategies offer to do just that:
- Sharing our failures with a trusted other who can compassionately listen with us while still loving us without judgement or blame
- Taking time to contemplate the lessons and valuable insights about what we learned and what we can or will do differently next time (write it down!)
- Identify the knowledge or skills we need to learn or improve to better create the opportunity for the outcomes we want (ie. better listening skills so we can build improved connection and trust with those we love … then take action toward learning it)
- See the ‘failure’ as a sacred opportunity for growth and soul wisdom (restores the goodness of our humanity)
- Feed ourselves with ‘proper nutrient’ such as compassionate self-talk which builds up and repairs any broken-down sense of self
- Take time to rest and restore our energy so that we have the strength/power to sidestep the negativity of old self-criticizing and self-shaming habits that may be triggered
- Breathe deeply into our sense of failure and bring light and compassion to the Energy of this sense of failure until the intensity of our negative emotional attachment to it begins to dissipate and lose its power to bind us (the power of self- acceptance).
If you would like a supported way to see clearly where you can turn your relationship failures into relationship wisdom and insight, consider purchasing my newly released Wisdom’s Way to Creating Peaceful Relationships: Your 2014 Working Guide. The book leads you through a creative process to find a clear path to connection, love and relationship success, and opens doors to living your potential in a new way!
I encourage you to value your relationships with your heart to the degree you will do what you must to create the peaceful relationships you desire. Namaste,