What is the one thing at which you are the most afraid of failing?
Failure is one of those words that has a negative connotation before you even get out of the gate. But is it possible to turn it on its head and not be afraid of failure? Is it possible to redefine the word or at least question it?
Definition of FAILURE by Merriam Webster online
a : omission of occurrence or performance; specifically : a failing to perform a duty or expected action
b (1) : a state of inability to perform a normal function
c : a fracturing or giving way under stress
a : lack of success
b : a failing in business : bankruptcy
a : a falling short : deficiency
How could I really fail now? I've cheated death; I've survived 156 miles solo backpacking the Colorado Trail; I've visited Yellowstone and captured timeless photos; and I'll be going back to work soon.
In January of 2014 I had a stem cell transplant for leukemia. I am now disease-free, healthy, and pretty normal. I find myself relatively content even though I have failed to manage my finances which is really impossible given the circumstances of my last two years. But in this context have I really failed. I don't know many people who could have come through this experience without financial debt due to medical expenses not covered by insurance. Thank goodness I had that ... and a former husband willing to float me whatever money I needed until I can get back on my feet. He also seems to understand my need to have adventures as he doesn't criticize how I spend that money. It's all a loan, so I have much to manage when I get back to work.
At this stage of my life I'm learning to believe that failure by its definition is something we allow ourselves to cottle to. Somehow feeling badly about what we haven't accomplished, or fell short of doing, or hoped we could do. But it's really a lesson. Everything in this life is a lesson and should be taken as a sign that one could do better. Or maybe it's a sign that that wasn't the right path to begin with.
When I set out on the Colorado Trail my intention was to complete the entire 485-miles. It was not my path to complete. So did I fail? I don't believe so now. My first attempt was 92 miles in 9 days. After coming home to nurse some leg ailments, I was called to walk some more--feeling I had not finished. My second attempt was 64 miles in 7 days for a total of 156 miles. At that point I felt I had completed enough. I accepted that walking 485 miles was not my path. Many of my friends who watched my beat cancer were in awe. Many others asked if I would be going back for more. I am finished--at least for now. And I'm okay with that.
Furthermore, have I failed by not finding work by now? One might think that. Sometimes I think that. But having touched the doorstep of death, I found that I needed my adventures. I needed to go on the second one to Yellowstone where I got some amazing pictures of splashing springs, waterfalls, bison, and trumpeter swans. I visited a friend, Sharon Frizzell, who exposed me to "tiny living" in her 5th wheel trailer home. I believe I could almost live that way and have been exploring it. I'm not ready yet, but that doesn't mean I've failed that either. It's just not time.
I know I will find just the right job in just the right time. I've had some leads. I've had some interviews. Would one say I'd failed at those interviews that did not culminate in a job? I say it wasn't the job for me. I continue to search. And when it's time I will rejoice. I will not consider myself a failure. I believe the last two years have taught me this.
In summary, yes, by simple definition failure is a bad thing, but it doesn't have to be. Move beyond and look at the underlying story. Why you fell short? Why you failed to perform? What could you have done to change it? Or is it time to accept that the event was just a course correction?