Failure Isn’t Really What We’re Afraid Of

At some point (more likely many points) during our time at grade school or university, or work life, we didn’t get that promotion, failed a test, or screwed up something.  And when it comes to rejection – well, we’ve all pretty much experienced that too.  But we’d never consider not attending school, not getting a job, or not making friends.  And yet, when it comes to pursuing our dreams – the idea of that we may make a misstep, experience setbacks, or a level of embarrassment/rejection, often stops us dead in our tracks.  Why is it that we give ourselves permission to experience failure on the road to conventional mainstream success, but not authentic success?  Almost no one, including ourselves begrudges us the setbacks and missteps we make on the roads most traveled in pursuit of conventional version of success.  A kind of success that’s becoming increasingly more challenging to obtain if you’re not already there:

A success that more and more report feeling unsatisfied with, once it is obtained:

But authentic success, the kind that’s more about how good we feel on the inside than what we’ve been able to stack up on the outside, the kind that’s less concerned about what others think and more concerned about how we actually feel, we’re often reluctant to pursue unless there’s a reasonable guarantee that we won’t experience missteps, setbacks, or rejection along the way.  Which is of course, absolutely unreasonable.  Because experiencing missteps, setbacks, and rejection is just life, no matter which way we live it.  So rather than navigate through these universal challenges while living a life that feels right, we settle for navigating them in the service of a life that only “looks right.”  And so, I’m not altogether sure it’s experiencing failure that we’re all so afraid of, and instead, I think what we’re really afraid of is actually being ourselves.  I believe that authentic success is based on doing what is meaningful for your soul in the context of a lifestyle that supports how you best thrive, so inevitably, it will vary from person to person.  And given our strong propensity towards the herd mentality, when it comes to success, it seems we haven’t quite figured out how to embrace this variance.  Most of us can’t quite buy that a person can be happily unmarried their entire life, or that a married couple can be quite content never to have kids, or that a middle aged person could feel like a success despite never having been married, had kids, or owned anything.  I think it’s this varying from person to person that we just  Which I think is what makes the fear of failure all the more debilitating when it comes to pursuing authentic success.

“People would rather live in a community with unreasonable claims, than face loneliness with their truth.” ― Bangambiki Habyarimana

It’s one thing to stumble, maybe even fall during the race of life, it’s quite another to leave the race altogether to go off in a completely different direction, or maybe even “worse,” spurn the race by heading off towards the center of the track turning cartwheels along the way.  In other words, experiencing setbacks in the service of doing what everyone else is doing, no biggie.  Setbacks in the service of doing our own thing, of going against the grain, not so much.  Who am I not to want what I’m supposed to want? my doubts used to constantly ask.  I did not want a 9 to 5, and I did not want a house more than I wanted to travel the world.  And if I don’t want what I’m supposed to want and I can’t manage to get what I actually do want, then where is that going to leave me? my fears desperately wondered.  The thing I didn’t realize back when I was asking that last question though, was that getting anywhere at all in life is a process, and when that process is tied to what brings me true joy, despite the inevitable setbacks and missteps, joy is always somehow still naturally woven throughout those experiences.  And then, the wisdom in the saying, “the journey is the reward” stops being something to aspire to, and instead just naturally becomes your own day to day reality.

“Success is not a place at which one arrives but rather the spirit with which one undertakes and continues the journey.” – Alex Noble

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