Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. - Samuel Beckett
I just spent a week in Jordan visiting my family and away from the every day, it dawned on me: The 3 day retreat I was co-hosting in the South of France really wasn’t happening for several reasons, ranging from train strikes in France to not enough sign-ups.
It felt kinder for my co-host and I to let go of this dream rather than invest more into it.
It is very easy to see such situations as ‘failures’, isn't it? My mind seems to automatically go there.
But that is not how I want to see life.
I want to see it as rife with opportunities to learn and grow - and hopefully become Wiser Humans.
This example may not seem like a big deal, and yet how often do we take things not working out the way we hoped they would as confirmation that we suck?
And yet, this is life.
I knew taking on this project that I had never co-hosted an event over several days, that this was a risk. But I also decided that I wanted to be someone who took this kind of risk.
Taking risks in the service of what matters to us - that is vulnerability.
And it is only by being willing to be vulnerable - by taking risks and being all in - that we can live a bigger, more meaningful life.
As J.K. Rowling, the author of Harry Potter says:
It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.
When my marriage ended, people around me talked about the ‘failure’ of my marriage. But that is not how I chose to see it.
It worked - until it no longer did, and then we lovingly let it go. And I truly believe that nothing is a failure if we can grow and learn from it - which I did and still am.
Yet, much of the time we treat ourselves like fragile objects made of glass that cannot fall because what if we break? So we stay stuck and play small in life, by holding onto thoughts like:
What if I fail?
What if I regret this?
What if this doesn’t work out?
And yes, if we see ourselves as made of glass, if we see our worthiness as being on the line, then we are screwed.
But I don’t see any of us as made of glass.
Instead, I like to think of us as being made of clay. If we fall, we won’t break. Instead, we can be ‘re-molded' into a new shape and able to learn from the experience.
This doesn’t mean we have to throw ourselves into ventures or relationships without thinking.
No. I know now that I should have been more aware of the logistics of holding a retreat. I know now that an event like this needs to be planned much more in advance than we anticipated.
I know this for next time. Things not working provides information - if we listen to it.
So it is not about throwing ourselves into things, but perhaps gently taking our own hand, and helping ourselves prepare and risk manage as much as possible, doing our best to make it work - and then letting go of the stuff we can’t control and embracing the risk involved.
And if it doesn’t work out?
It might not and that’s OK.
Instead of wallowing in regret, of beating ourselves up, I find these questions more helpful:
What do I now know?
What will I do differently next time?
What have I learned about myself and what really matters to me moving forward?
Life is about failing and falling and stumbling, and getting back up, having become someone stronger, wiser and more resilient - if we allow ourselves to be re-molded by our 'failures'.
“Let me fall if I must, the one I will become will catch me.” - Baal Shem Tov