The best way to avoid failure is simply not to try. Partly true. But I wasn’t satisfied with that answer. I needed something more authentic.
Working at a summer camp, I see over 200 kids a week. We hand out beads for certain accomplishments that campers can string together as a memoriam of their times this summer. Specifically, I pay attention to their fears. I do this because, for each kid that confesses a fear and then faces it at the camp, they will an award called the “bravery” bead.
Fearing failure is real and some of us experiencing the crippling anxiety wondering up to our task and sometimes backing out of the endeavor for no other reason than we can’t bear to make a mistake.
This last year I quit my 15 year career as a nurse – and I was scared. I became a nurse because I love helping people, but also because it’s a job that didn’t require a lot of hunting. Frequently, agencies are understaffed, so job security was high. It was safe.
Instead, I got my life guard and high ropes course certification. Have you ever saved a drowning victim? Or watched a 11 year duck under the pool and wonder how well she can swim? Have you secured the harness on a little one and sent them flying through the air 100 feet off of the ground?
Even now, my hands and feet tingle as I type. Heights. Swimming. Not safe.
I was scared to life guard mostly because I didn’t want to have failed the testing. Swimming that long without a break really requires constitution and I wasn’t sure if I could do it. High ropes course is terrifying because strapping in wrong, tying the wrong knot can spell accident and injury very quickly. What if I made a mistake?
What if I made a mistake by quitting nursing? What if I was wrong about the choices I made about my body and the bodies of my family?
Here is what I have learned about fearing failure. When I dig deep into my consciousness, I find that at the base is a lack of trust in my decisions. I don’t trust myself. I trust others and can outsource their minds and hearts to tasks like watching the pool during free time or strapping in a camper, but not me. I can trust someone else to tell me what medicine to take, but not my own judgement. Ultimately, I don’t trust myself. And that scares me.
After thinking on this for a while, I did come to one conclusion on my path to wholeness. Even though I don’t trust my judgement, I do trust “having fun.” When I am having fun, my eyes light up, I smile and time passes quickly. A gentle child awakes and steps to the front of my personality and truly, outshines the fear of failure or anything.
Perfect love, perhaps? At the least, it is a sincere love of fun.
And that was my hack: get serious about having fun. Do it well. So, whether nursing, raising conscious children, standing for freedom, tying a knot, pulling a swimmer from the deep end, or job searching – have fun. I know I can trust that.
One of the ways I have fun is writing on this blog, writing for www.roleplayingtips.com and producing Sojourners, Awake! podcast. Thank you to all my friends who play along and especially those who listen.