i am confronting a huge, very painful, fear of failure right now. it’s something i’ve never looked at head on before, and i’m amazed how deep and pervasive it is. fear of failure, by extension, is a fear of trying.
i am afraid to try new things, because i might fail at them.
when i sat down with these feelings and thoughts, with the intention of finding clarity, several things became clear right off the bat. first of all, past evidence clearly shows that i have the potential to succeed at things. second, there is zero potential to succeed at things which i do not attempt. forgive the blinding obviousness of this logic train; i promise i am going somewhere helpful.
third is that master yoda says, “do or not do, there is no try.” jedi masters are mysterious, but my conclusion is that trying is merely a step on the way to doing.
right now, my life is in transition. i left the safety net of monastic community; and now i’m actively searching for a new community, and for meaningful work. finding these two things is my current goal. this week i interviewed for a job that i would love to have, working at a meditation society on the communications team. the organization aligns deeply with my own purpose, and i love the idea of working with writing, one of my lifelong passions.
However, at this point, it is completely out of my hands whether i am the successful hire or if it goes to another, surely very deserving, person. part of me is clinging hard to the notion that if i don’t get picked, that i will have “failed”. yet, i don’t know the bigger picture, and i have to trust that whatever happens will be for the best.
whether or not i get this particular job, i won’t have “failed”. i’ll simply be either closer or farther from accomplishing my goal of finding meaningful work in a supportive, mindful community. renegotiating the way i think about this is incredibly transformative.
Buddha said in the Dhammadda,
“We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.”
our minds are our most powerful tools. the way that we shape our thoughts can be a choice, either moving away from, or towards, happiness. calling myself a failure, judging others as failures, is out of alignment. the deeper truth is, that there is no failure; that we are already perfect, just as we are; that life is a journey, and this is not the final destination.
so we don’t give up; we choose to be brave, and keep trying.
we can’t fail; we are already all that we need to be, so we just keep going, keep growing. it’s all within our reach, if we just believe it to be so. with effort, the mind can be trained to frame things in more helpful ways. meditation can help; affirmations can help. i discuss this in an earlier post here if you are drawn to explore it.
when i first heard about this job that i interviewed for, my reaction was immediate. “oh, i can’t do that.” i didn’t even bother to read the description carefully. that self-limiting thought just popped right up, telling me to stop, not go outside my comfort zone, not bother to try because...I MIGHT FAIL. gasp.
obviously i did apply, or i wouldn’t be telling you that i got the interview. but i didn’t apply that day, or the next, or the next. some small deep voice in me called me back, whispering, very quietly...”try”...and i resisted. i was afraid to even try, literally so afraid to fail that i was afraid to apply for a job that, once i read the description, was well within my level of qualification and strengths. a job that i really want, that could help me to meet my goal of finding soul-nourishing work.
as i say, i don’t and can’t know what the outcome of this attempt to find meaningful work will be. but i can and do know that if i had listened to the voice of fear, i would not even have the chance of landing this position. i would have failed more surely than i could possibly fail at this point. because i’ve put myself out there.
i’ve tried, and i’ve learned things in the process, and whatever happens, i can be satisfied with that. and i can and do know that, while i may or may not get this specific position, i WILL find meaningful work, i WILL reach my goal, because i’m going to keep trying until i do.
and when i think about it like this, i already HAVE meaningful work, in the form of this blog, and of the energy healing services that i offer to the world. i’m simply in the process of expanding my life to include more meaningful work, moving from success towards even wilder success. when i shift it to these terms, i feel gratitude and amazement. i am lucky and blessed already!
i am beginning to understand the old wisdom, which tells us that the only true failure would be never to try. moving towards our heart’s aspirations is a journey, not a pass/fail test. as long as we are learning and growing, then we are truly on a noble and worthy path.
conversely, when we hold back from making our best effort, we short the world of the great things we know deep inside that we are capable of achieving. we tell ourselves, we might fail, it’s dangerous, it’s vulnerable. and sometimes, we give up before we even start.
yet, if failing is simply a matter of having not yet attained our goals, then the only way we can fail is if we chose not to take action towards those goals. as long as we are moving towards what we believe is meaningful, then we never fail; we simply haven’t yet succeeded as fully as we are capable of doing.
i’ll close with a quote from Marianne Williamson:
“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and ablities were used in a way that served others.”
I like that very much. i know it’s time that i redefine my relationship with the meaning of failure and success. how about you--do you hold yourself accountable to strict concepts of failing and succeeding? if so, do you feel it holds you back from trying sometimes? do you agree with Marianne’s definition of success? let us know in the comments below!
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Hi, I'm Jessie A...
I'm an energy healer with a passion for compassion, a sparkly love affair with crystals, and a deep commitment to evolving awareness.