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Failing Beautifully

When we teach children how to fail beautifully, we create adults who succeed beautifully. - Dr. TJ - The Hope Pusher

Atychiphobia is the fear of failing. It is one of the most common fears people have. We tend to look at failing as an affront to our personhood, our character, our ability to achieve in life. As a self-proclaimed recovering perfectionist, failing is (was) my biggest fear. As I transition from perfectionist to "imperfectionist", I'm learning how to fail beautifully.

Failing Leads to Freedom

Let me begin by listing some of my failing highlights:

* I received an incomplete as an actual grade in reading in 5th grade

* Flunked out of my first try at grad school

* My marriage officially ended after 7 years, but floundered for several years before

* I can't dance... not even a little bit.

*That time I decided to cut my own bangs

It's taking everything in me not to follow this list up with my successes. I want to add a few "yeah but..." My type of atychiphobia and perfectionism was such that I would have one of two responses when situations weren't going according to my plan:

1. Avoid situations or tasks that I felt like I couldn't accomplish according to a self-imposed, predetermined (usually irrational) guideline.

2. Remain in a situation or task, repeating the same behaviors over and over again, until I could do it correctly (as determined by me again).

With either response, my goal was to appear to have it all together. My fear was to be seen as less than or unworthy by others.

A funny thing happened when I finally embraced failure... I found freedom.

Learning how to fail beautifully has allowed me to embark upon adventures I'd never thought I would try. It's given me permission to color outside the lines, or even off the whole page. Failing beautifully has given me the courage to apply to jobs for which I'm not perfectly qualified, pack up and move to new locations without a tried and true, well thought out safety net, initiate conversations and relationships with others, and embark on career endeavors like this website. It is scary. I am filled with anxiety. I sometimes don't know what tomorrow (or the next minute) will bring. I'm loving every bit of it!

Starting Early

We work hard to protect our children. We want them to maintain their innocence as long as possible. However, we do them a disservice when we do not teach them how to fail. Failing is inevitable. We have to teach children that we all fail, yet we all have a choice about what we do after the fail. When we choose to remain in fail or do anything to avoid failing, we then become stuck in failure. Failing and failure are two different entities. Failing is a verb, an action word. It is temporary. Failure is a noun, a state of being. It implies permanency.

The best way to teach children how to fail beautifully is to simply allow them to fail. Stop saving them when the consequence is small. This can be done through every day experiences. If they leave their lunch at home, don't bring it up to the school. I promise you, the cafeteria will give them lunch on credit or provide them with one free meal (or an school employee will gladly pay out-of-pocket). If they wait until the last minute to complete a project, let them experience the consequence of procrastination or improper planning. If they fall off the bike, encourage them to get back on again. In my case, I really loved volleyball. I made the team. I was a bench player for four years. I was not good. My parents didn't argue with my coaches, attempt to bribe them to let me play, or pull me from the team and find a team where I could start. They let me sit. I grew up to coach a successful volleyball team. I'm not saying don't advocate for your kid. Sometimes the best advocacy is simply life experience.

How to Beautifully Fail

1. Try. Put forth your best effort in all that you do.

2. Rest in the knowledge that you gave it your all.

3. After a failed attempt, give yourself permission to feel whatever you feel. There are no bad feelings. It is only what we do with those feelings that becomes good (positive) or bad (negative).

4. Think about the experience. What did you learn from the process or the attempt? What did you learn from the fail?

5. Readjust. What could have be done differently? Do you need to try again? Do you need to move on to something else?

Closing Thoughts

By evaluating our fails, and teaching children how to do the same, we learn how to beautifully fail. And when we beautifully fail, we inevitably find out that we're actually beautifully succeeding.

(c)2018 The Hope Pusher|Dr. TJ Jackson

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