Monday, October 12, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - The Blessing of Mistakes

"A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery." ~ James Joyce, Irish novelist, from Ulysses

The passing of time can be a frustrating thing. We may spend time on one activity that leads us to a dead-end when we could have spent that time on something that would have lead us to a success. It's easy to become overwhelmed by how many ways we have to spend our time; so many in fact that we might feel that no matter how much we love what we're doing, we could always be doing something that would make us even happier. The odd paradox of choice, as Barry Schwartz calls it. Too many opportunities leads us to too many opportunity costs.
These increased opportunity costs are beginning to effect the way we view failure and mistakes.

Rather than valuable learning tools, we might be tempted to view them as a waste of time. Why should I try and fail and learn when there are so many other things I could be trying and possibly succeeding at? And yet we know that failure is a part of this life. We have to fail. We have to stretch ourselves well beyond our comfort zones, well beyond even the most optimistic view of our own abilities. If we don't push our limits and fail, then we'll never know exactly how much we can achieve. Unrealized achievement that was within our grasp had we pushed a little harder is far worse than failure.

I think about failure a lot. In terms of jobs and relationships and pursuits I've considered, even in places where I moved and tried to make a home. Sometimes I feel badly about all my failures, and then I consider so many of my brave friends and family who just refused to let fear stand in their way. My friend, Phyllis, who just today wrote to me and said she left her job to focus on her own business full-time. "I'm secretly scared sh*tless," she said. "
I think that’s probably fairly normal for anyone who quits a well-paying job in this crappy economy." I agree. And I'm so proud of her and inspired by her actions.

My friend, Allan, has a good paying job, albeit a little boring for him. He had the opportunity to continue with a new assignment there - one he could certainly do if he could just resign himself to not liking the job. Instead, he's taking a risk and going back to school for a graduate degree in mathematics, his greatest passion.

I have a few friends who are getting married next year. And guess what? They're all scared, too. They're afraid of failing, of being hurt, of hurting someone else. They're afraid of letting other people down, of wasting someone else's time. They're afraid they aren't enough. When I asked them if they really thought this was a good idea, to be getting married, they all said yes unequivocally. "Marriage," one of them said to me, "is the greatest leap of faith there is. We can be afraid of failure. We just can't let it prevent us from going after happiness."

What if we could think of failure as a blessing? What if we could seek out failure as a great teacher? And what if we opened up our hearts and minds and accepted and forgave our own failures and the failures of others, too? Would that kind of acceptance and forgiveness make the failures easier to bear and the successes that much sweeter to earn?

The image above is not my own. It can be found here.


runner52 said...

Christa, failure is the best teacher if you're willing to sit through the lesson. I've had my share of failures and as devastating as they have been, or thought to be at the time, I was always able to see that there was something to be learned..Sometimes it even leads to a better situation...

Christa said...

I totally agree, runner52. While mistakes can be so tough to go through, I have found that I am always better off once I come out the other side!