Like Britta and Lee have mentioned in the previous weeks, it’s important to take time to reflect on the past year so you can powerfully complete the year and bring more intention into 2018.
So once you’ve reviewed your year and acknowledged your accomplishments (like Britta suggested), there’s another step—recognizing and honoring your failures. And this can seem scary.
Some of us are really good at looking at our failures but from a place of rumination where we incessantly beat ourselves up, telling ourselves how bad or wrong we are. We review our mistakes over and over again and it can almost be like mental torture thinking, “I can’t believe I did that! What made me think I could do x. I’m such an idiot! I should never try that again…” Essentially, when we fail and look at it from this perspective, we make our mistakes mean that we are bad, wrong, idiotic, stupid, incompetent, etc.
Then there are those of us who choose to just gloss over or ignore our failures. We’ll just keep on moving along, never dwelling on what we did wrong. We’ll think of everything we did well and simply skim past our failures because if we did actually look at them, it would hurt too much.
If you couldn’t tell already, both of these are not the healthiest ways of relating to failure. When we ignore our mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them. When we dwell on our mistakes, we are bound to suffer needlessly.
Instead, when we can face, honor and even celebrate our failures, we ensure that we keep risking and growing. That’s the juicy part of life!
Redefining how I relate to failure was a big lesson for me this year. Growing up, I was the straight A student, the first chair oboist, and the captain of the volleyball team. I rarely failed and I did about everything I could to make sure I never would (which included studying three hours for a test, memorizing line after line, to ensure I could recite every detail and get an A). I had always gained people’s love by being the best, so failure always meant that I wasn’t good enough and people would love me less. As a result, the idea of failure was terrifying. So, I focused on trying to be perfect, always doing the right thing, and never making a mistake.
Clearly, life doesn’t work this way. We are all bound to make mistakes. But whenever I failed or made a mistake, it felt like the end of the world. As I trained to become a facilitator, I made plenty of mistakes. I even completely failed in instances (and still continue to do so).
This past fall, I felt like a failure (once again) after a workshop and I remember talking to Britta and her saying, “Oh darling, I make a mistake at least once every workshop. That’s the nature of the job. There’s always something to learn.” In that moment, I thought, I won’t last another two years if this is how I feel after every misstep. I can’t beat myself up for hours upon end over every mistake I make, otherwise, I’ll completely burn out. And I knew I had to change how I related to failure moving forward.
So, I decided to really celebrate my failures—to find joy in the fact I had failed.
That’s when everything shifted for me. Failure no longer meant I wasn’t good enough, but rather that I was trying and risking. Mistakes became gifts because I had the chance to grow and learn, which wouldn’t be possible had they not happened. Also, I could bring gratitude, compassion, kindness, and forgiveness to my failures instead of self-loathing.
So dear reader, I invite you to:
- Review your year and write down all of your failures and mistakes, skipping every other line to do so.
- Then, under each failure, write down what small gift was in that failure—whether a lesson or something you received.
- Then look over the list again and see if you can celebrate your failures, acknowledge yourself for the risks you took, and honor the gifts of these mistakes. It may even help to play a song like “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang to get into it! Maybe even throw yourself your own little dance party for your mistakes!
- And finally, once you’ve celebrated your failures, take a moment to forgive yourself for your mistakes since you were doing the best you could with the tools you had been given. Perhaps you close your eyes, place a hand over your heart, and say, “I forgive myself for _____.” Then imagining your mistakes dropping into an ocean of grace.
And once you’ve done that, we’d love to know what failures you are celebrating from 2017 and the gifts that came from those mistakes! Share it on Facebook so we can celebrate with you. Your share might help someone else begin to redefine their own relationships to failure.
Celebrating and honoring your risks,