Originally, my post for this evening was going to be something topical about resolutions and the new year and silly things that don’t really matter in the long run but always seem to get people talking when January 1st rolls around every year. I am not really big on resolutions, or feeling good or bad because I did or did not stick to them longer than the eight-day average most people seem to. Instead I have decided to spend tonight to clear the way for a very simple rule – stop accepting failure.
I know, I know. I talk about success and failure quite a lot. Truth be told, I have a bit of experience dealing with both of them, at least psychologically. Socially, people do not wish to ever, even for a split second, reveal that they accepted any failure in the first place. Saying that you are going to stop accepting failure means that at some point in the past you did accept it, and that switches up the entire conversation to the question of WHY? Why do we ever accept failure in the first place?
Before I answer that question for myself, let me be very specific in stating that, as I have previously mentioned, failure is absolutely okay. It is alright to set your sights on a dream and not quite reach it. It is alright to not be the best, brightest, or adjective-est in the world. You can even accept failure in the sense of knowing that you are just not cut out for a certain circumstance or situation. After a lovely hand injury I discovered that snowboarding is in no way a sport at which I will ever succeed in or ever want to try my hand (ouch) at again. I am perfectly okay with being a snowboarding failure.
There are many times in my life where failure was simply the (sigh) easiest and most understood option. I accepted numerous failures in my life because it was just too difficult to quantify what success actually was in a way that made it seem appealing (or even necessary). I was more comfortable failing than facing the unknowns that success could deliver to me. I like having control over myself, and I am much more in control when I am fine with failure than I am if success washes over me and sends me into a whirlpool of uncertainty. This is especially jarring because, yes, I could accept success that I have always wanted and feel that rush of energy and that amazing natural high that reaching a goal can give you, but… what if I fail after that? That just gives me one extra step to fall back down from. That is a scary proposition, and it haunts me. It drives me crazy.
I’m a pretty decent bowler – not a pro (not even close) but I do well enough that I feel good when I set a goal and hit it, be it a clean game or hitting over a certain score (like 190 or 200), but when I don’t do that? I’m an insufferable pain in the butt. If I run into a long stretch of mediocrity (or worse), I mentally assail myself for my entire time at or on the lanes. I clam up, I retreat into my head, and I yell at myself for screwing up and being less than I know I am capable of. Obviously, this does not exactly make me the funnest person to be around, but I can not make it go away when I really want to succeed. If I made every chance of failure and success in my life like that I probably would be unable to do much of anything besides torture myself for all of the things I do wrong.
I do that already. There are things that I truly do care about and will not accept any sort of failure on, except that I do accept failure all the time. Just because I get mad at myself, cut myself off from communicating with the outside world, and bottle up all of my rage to be unleashed whenever I am in private has done absolutely nothing to make any of these failures really go away. They are still there and I still am prepared to travel the roller coaster track of emotions each and every time I screw up. So for me, it is not so much about stopping the acceptance is it is about stopping the aftermath. Failure is fine, acceptance is wasteful, anger is pointless. For far too long, my comfort zone has been Venn Diagram’d somewhere between those three circles with success nowhere to be seen or heard from. Yes, world, there is a part of me that fears being successful, because I can not even begin to know what it feels like.
What I’m beginning to know, though, is that where I am now is not the kind of first step for any sort of success I can imagine. Once I figure out what part of my imagination is the part that I desire to be real, I will be able to change where I am now to where I need to be, mentally if not physically, to better deal with all of the unknowns that scare me into thinking that failure is the answer instead of just a problem waiting to be overcome. Think about that as you go into the next year. I know I will.
Happy New Year.