I’m pretty bad a failing. I hate the sticky residue failure leaves behind. Once that failure is on me, I feel as if I cannot get it off. In my mind, I know failure is necessary for success but in practice, I don’t want anything to do with it.
I have trouble failing without feeling defeated. Some say failure spurs them on towards ultimate victory but for me, failure feels like a humble but adamant gesture to immediately stop trying whatever it is I am failing at.
However, I’ve realized that avoiding failure like I do stunts growth. It’s fun to celebrate my strengths, but I need failure to reveal my flaws. Failure is an opportunity. So, for five days, I tried to fail. Here’s how it went:
When it comes to meditation, I’m a total newb, but I’ve read about the considerable benefits and have always wanted to give a shot. For my first time, I decided to attempt an hour-long meditation session. Part of me knew this was bonkers, but the failure-hating side of me said I would get up before the timer went off under penalty of death.
After procrastinating all day, I sat on the floor around 9:30 P.M, closed my eyes and started to focus on my breathing. After what felt like at least 30 minutes, I began to squirm and lose focus. I checked my phone to see exactly 16 minutes had passed. After 5 more minutes of restlessly shifting on the ground, I cancelled the timer on my phone and accepted defeat.
Despite my short and unfocused meditation session, I was able to feel some benefits. I felt relaxed and even more positive. Plus, the activity got me off my phone for 20 minutes. And I think most importantly, I wanted to try again. My experience meditating was not a success by any stretch of the imagination, but the small amounts of success I did experience gave me the confidence to continue practicing.
On Tuesday, I meant to wake up early and walk on the treadmill while listening to an audiobook or podcast. Instead, I woke up 45 minutes after my alarm and scrambled out the door to go to work. In my morning frenzy, I forgot my lunch. I replaced a balanced meal with five cookies, which made me feel guilty about not exercising. Although, since I don’t exercise regularly anyway, I’m not sure why this was a huge factor in my level of guilt for the day. I got home late and finished preparing dinner around 9:00 P.M. While it simmered, I sat on the couch for approximately 2 minutes before the aforementioned guilt forced me onto the elliptical.
This day was a disaster, but I was still able to accomplish something resembling my original intent for the day. I think success is just as much about what you overcome as it is about what you accomplish. I honestly did not feel that my measly 15 minutes of marching on the elliptical qualified as a failure because I was able to overcome to urge to quit.
Positive Self Talk
This was maybe the biggest failure so far. On this particularly bad mental health day, attempting to be positive revealed just how bad I really am at speaking kindly to myself. I think I took for granted how simple this task was and didn’t consider how much effort it would require for someone to shift her thoughts who is in the habit negative self-talk. I can see the biggest failures often offer the biggest opportunity — for forgiveness, for acceptance and for growth.
Advocating for Myself
I know I’m not the best a voicing my opinions and confronting others. Today, I was in a position where I needed to advocate for my needs. I truly was not trying to fail here, but since I’m working on failing this week, I wanted to include this experience and share my findings.
I’m quiet and aloof to people I don’t know very well. This makes confrontation and self-advocacy very difficult. Today, I failed at advocating for myself. Without getting into too many details, I spoke with a superior at work today about reducing my workload because it has been causing undue stress in my life. Or rather, I tried to speak with him but I found myself only having conversations in my head and getting very little of those conversations out into the real world.
However, I’m lucky I have friends who stand up for me and advocate on my behalf. In my failure, others have filled in where they were needed. I think everyone has someone – a friend, family member, partner or mentor – who can pick up their slack. Failure is like a bat signal for others to swoop in and fight for you. This has been my favorite revelation about failure this week. It doesn’t always feel good to be dependent on others for help, but the I remember I have others at all and it makes failure sting a little less.
After a long week of failing, I planned a relaxing night in. A homemade dinner, an at-home spa treatment and a few episodes of Parks and Rec on Netflix. I slathered a maroon face mask on my cheeks only to be greeted with instant regret. The sensation on my face threatened imminent chemical burns so I frantically washed it off and continued my relaxation session sans-face mask.
The final lesson here – read the instructions on your chemical exfoliants, folks.
Overall, I found this week productive, and dare I say it, enjoyable. Despite the sure failure I faced everyday, I enjoyed trying new things and came away with some fascinating revelations. I’m certainly not a perfect failure, but with practice, I see opportunity for improvement. What can I fail at next?