John’s story – lessons in failure #2

Failure isn’t a comfortable subject to talk about is it? It’s an uncomfortable subject and when it happens to us we get so uncomfortable that we avoid it as best we can.

Since I first started to talk about failure, I’ve had so many people contact me to share their own experiences and I’ve also had a lot of people leave this newsletter.

Why do you think that is? Well I’m not a psychologist but it doesn’t align with the illusion of a perfect life does it. And despite what social media might have you believe – life isn’t perfect and it’s definitely not one accolade after another.

It shouldn’t be because the nuggets of gold are found in the experiences that don’t go right, that don’t work out.

If you can turn to face the uncomfortable feelings around failure then you can learn so much about yourself and you can find peace.

Let me give you an example.

*John had always wanted to do a marathon. He trained long and hard for 9 months, he put in the miles every week, pushing himself to get out even when he didn’t want to.

In the weeks prior to the race, he felt strong, confident, everything would go smoothly, wouldn’t it? John was meticulous in his planning, diligent in his training and fastidious in his preparation. He missed social occasions, family BBQs and nights out with friends. He made sacrifices in order to attain his goal. He did everything “right” in his opinion.

The morning of the race John was excited, “this was it”, he thought, “today I will do a marathon”

But it didn’t work out that way

He started well, “keep to the plan” was his mantra which was to start slow and build into it, all the training plans told him to do this. The first 10 miles went well, he felt good, he pushed on, by mile 15 he was outside his comfort zone, his legs started to ache and he felt an old injury resurfacing,

By mile 20 he was done. The pain was too much and he had to call it a day.

He was a failure, in his eyes. Later that night he couldn’t bear to read the whatsapp messages coming into his running group, there were so many smiling faces with finisher medals around their necks and he was sitting at home unable to move.

He was miserable – why me, he thought.

In the days after all he could think about was how he failed, then he started to remember all the other times in his life when he failed. He was suffering with his thoughts and it really affected him. He stopped running and moped about the house.

One day, a few weeks after the event, he thought “enough is enough, I need to reframe this failure”. He got out a pen and paper and asked himself the following questions:

* What went right?
* What could I have done differently if I did another challenge?
* What did I discover as being my greatest strengths? My biggest weaknesses?

And most importantly he stopped asking “why me.”

After he answered the questions he saw clearly how the pressure he put on himself physically & mentally caused his body to break, he saw how he was following guidance from a plan rather than listening to his own body and he saw other ways in which he could make improvements.

Then he saw how these same patterns turned up in other facets of his life. At work he was always putting himself under pressure, was way too hard on himself and he took other peoples opinions over his own intuition.

This simple exercise took him just 10 minutes helped John transform the experience from one of negative to positive. He was a different person, relief flooded in and he found peace with what happened.

Now not many of us would choose to run a marathon but the principles at play here are the same: instead of running away from failure, turn to face it, you never know what you will learn about yourself, what peace you will find.

Yours in failure (cause everyone does)


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