Weighty Matters

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If You Couldn’t Fail

on February 26, 2013

I’m not caught up yet with the rest of my Hawaii photos so today’s post comes without picture illustration and metaphor.  My thoughts are all over the place, so I’m freewheeling a little here tonight.

There’s a saying that I run across in various places at random times.  It asks the question, “What would you attempt if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

I tend to be hard on myself, which I’ve discussed here before.  I hate the mere thought of falling short of expectations – my own or anyone elses.   To compensate, there was a time in my life when I didn’t push or expect much of myself.  If you don’t set high-reaching goals, you don’t set yourself up for disappointment when you don’t succeed.  I see now where I spent a number of years living to a level of diminished capacity.  It’s ironic because one thing I hated to hear from my father was that I was not living up to my potential and abilities.   On further thought, maybe it wasn’t irony so much as rebellion.  I’m no longer sure.  I just know that this way of life was neither affirming nor rewarding.  If anything, it reinforced my poor self-esteem.

In more recent times, I realize that I’ve developed a new strategy.  Don’t get me wrong.  I still hate falling short of expectations, but I don’t shy away from setting a high bar.  I think it’s okay to demand strong performance from myself, to push my reach beyond my grasp, and to strive for excellence.  Taking on challenges invigorates the mind and spirit.   It’s just not okay to beat myself up if I don’t always make it to the nth degree.

If I give my best effort, that counts.  I also have a lot of faith in my best effort being pretty darned good.  Results will ensue.

I’ve also gotten to the point where I don’t let fear of failure stop me from making the attempt, from embracing the venture.   What a difference a few decades can make.  Fear of failing can be so strong that it locks you in place, renders you inert.  The only thing that I can imagine is worse is when you are also afraid of success and end up self-sabotaging.

My takeaway for today is to remember that I don’t need to know I won’t fail in order to fling myself into the effort.  I’ll launch myself regardless and go for the gusto.

4 responses to “If You Couldn’t Fail

  1. Hope says:

    I remember when I was learning how to play hockey, the coaches would say “if you’re not falling, it means you’re not trying hard enough.”

    I just wish I’d had better shin guards. :p

  2. Susanne says:

    I’m late to this discussion, but I think our questions should be, “So what if we fail? At least we tried. And what harm came about because we didn’t attain our goal? Was anyone hurt? Can we try again?”

    For me, it’s the forward motion that’s so critical. Never lose sight of the goal, but if it’s not met in your timeline, just push the line further.

    But then, hey, I’m Canadian 🙂

  3. Mary Stella says:

    Honestly, Skye, it’s been a process and not an event. To some extent, I think the seeds were sown many, many years ago when I first realized that I was a compulsive overeater with an addictive disease and went into program for it. I had periods of blossoming and withering, then blossoming again. I think that each time I came back I was a little stronger.

    After one of the most difficult, heart-wrenching times of my life, when my mother died I really floundered. Then I got more involved in the center where I now work. This gradually helped to heal my heart, gave me new purpose, and led me to the point where I made the big move down here – even though I was leaving the rest of my family and long time friends back home.
    I’ve spent 11 years since putting my energy and skills to work in service of a mission greater than myself and doing so in a very supportive atmosphere. This helped the seeds sprout, grow roots and begin to flourish.
    Still, my weight and inability to do anything about it long term held me back and kept elements of fear and insecurity in my life. Shedding that and learning a new way to live and function seems to have taken me over the edge so I can fling myself into life without fear.
    That’s the short version anyway, but it shows the framework.

  4. Skye says:

    Very healthy attitude and one that enables you to live life fully. My therapist and I have been discussing how my various adaptations and mechanisms keep me from living fully, so I like yours. But how did you get to the point where you don’t let fear of failure get in your way? How did you disconnect that? I think it’s absolutely wonderful that you did and that you live this way, amply illustrated by your vacation stories and pictures.

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