I have always been afraid of failure. I am sure that most of us are. However, some people are much better at framing their failures than others. The fear of failure has held me back from trying so many things, and having so many experiences. As I approach 40, this has been one of the major hurdles in my life that I would like to get better at. As Gretchen Rubin says, we need to find the fun in failure. I am not sure if I am quite there yet, but I see the value in reframing it.
We were recently on a trip to Atlantis in the Bahamas. If you have never gone, it is like Vegas with a Beach! They have a full water slide park on the property with some of the craziest slides I have ever been on. My six year old is quite the daredevil and was tall enough to be able to go on any ride she wanted. She was working up the nerve all week to do the “Leap of Faith”. This is a 3 second straight vertical drop through a shark tank. She had already been on 12 other rides that I was quite impressed she did! She and her dad went there first thing one morning…the twins and I were armed with the video camera. We saw her dad go down, and she was suppose to be next…but no Blake. Of course we weren’t upset about it we and applauded her for trying but she beat herself up for the next hour, frustrated and disappointed at herself that she didn’t do it.
When I got home, I opened my emails and there were at least a dozen emails in my inbox with stories of people that were “failing” on their program. The emails had a very common theme that was similar to my daughter’s “Leap of Faith” experience – frustration, disappointment and self doubt.
Of course these emotions are all normal reactions to failure. The key is to not wallow in them for too long. Focusing on our failures does not allow us to see all of the other progress and accomplishments we are making. My daughter did 11/12 water slides at the most intense water park I have ever been. Most of the people that feel like they are “failing” on their diet plan have just had a minor setback…and if they would analyze their patterns they are much better than before they started. For example – they still might be eating a great breakfast, exercising and making great lunch choices…all new things that they have implemented. Instead they are focusing on the fact that they have had 3 dinners in the past week where they didn’t make great choices. If they continue to focus on this, that little devil voice is going to tell them things like; “see I knew it would happen, you are never going to be able to do this”.
On the other hand, I do think that failure can be fuel if we can reframe it. My daughter has already asked us if we can go back when she is 10, as she knows she will be ready for the ride then. If we come to expect that failure is a part of our lifestyle journey, we can use it as a lesson to better prepare next time. “Failure” on a lifestyle program is usually because people are not organized or prepared, or they encounter stress which de-railes them. Both of these experiences can be dissected and worked on so when the situation presents itself in the future, you will be better armed with tools to deal with them.
So, the moral of this story is this: the next time you fail – pat yourself on the back for trying! We are all our own worst critic, and being a little more kind to ourselves will get us back on the right path much faster.