We fail, we make mistakes. Life happens, even to you and me. “The secret to life, though,” says Paulo Coelho, “Is to fall seven times and get up eight times.” The way we deal with failure is of far greater importance than how well or often we succeed. Here, I suggest that the best way isn’t just to get up after you’ve fallen down, it’s to leap up and begin dancing–right in the middle of all that milk you just spilled. Here’s some tricks I’ve found have helped me along the way.
Return to the Present.
The first thing to do when dealing with failure is breathe and come back to the present moment. We human beings tend to make our problems into something much bigger than they actually are by going over and over them in our heads. So the first step is to begin to see clearly, and we do this by turning our attention to our breath. Breathe long, slow breaths, being deliberate with when you choose to inhale and exhale. Keep your awareness centered on your breath, and continue until you feel you are in the present again.
Accept and Embrace
Yes, there’s no use crying over spilled milk, but when the tears come anyways there’s not much we can do about it. Actually, the thing to understand is that we are not in charge of what emotions appear within us. Emotions have their own life to them, their own cycle, and they won’t disappear unless we honor them and allow them live out their brief existence within us. And though we can’t choose which emotions arise, we can choose how we dance with them. Being overwhelmed by emotion brings us away from our center, but the opposite is just as dangerous. Too often we don’t allow ourselves to feel emotions like shame, disappointment and sadness–especially when we are dealing with failure, when our tendency is to deny what we are seeing in ourselves. We forget that these emotions have their own beauty to them. Quote. The key is an embracing of our emotions that is different from sinking into their control. We watch as an observer as they play their course rather than floundering in their midst. When we do this, our emotions give us energy, power, depth. We feel renewed and we know we have become more whole.
Realize there are no mistakes.
One of the biggest obstacles on the spiritual path is the idea of improving oneself. You are divine, you cannot be improved. The whole point of the spiritual path is realizing this. So actually, dealing with failure is one of the greatest opportunities, because it gives us the chance to embrace the parts of ourselves that we have most difficulty accepting. And what is spirituality but practicing complete acceptance, of ourselves and others? What is a greater service to humanity than developing your ability to give this greatest gift?
A friend of mine said recently “Wisdom only comes from within, and is only discovered through experience.” I have found that the most wisdom is gained from experiences that show us a new side of ourselves. The best way to find this is by experiencing challenges that bring us out of our comfort zone and reveal what is hidden beneath our surface. There is little better than failure for this. Approaching life as a journey of learning rather than a game of success is key. Unfortunately, dealing with failure is one of the times that we are most likely to forget this. But just by learning, you ARE succeeding–nothing more is needed! You don’t have to pressure yourself to learn. Just be aware and the lesson will come by itself.
Love yourself. Feel gratitude for having had an experience that gives you a broader perspective on life and deepens your compassion and understanding. Know that because you have gone through this experience, you’ll be better equipped to support others through their mistakes. You are having a full experience of life (only nice stuff would just be half), so celebrate! Laugh. Dance and sing. Make a cake and throw yourself a party in congratulations.