Failing with Grace

Do you ever feel like you’re failing at this thing called Life?  Like somehow you’re just doing it all wrong?  This past year has been pretty humbling for me with regard to my personal endeavors.  When I look back on the past 6 months, I see myself making a lot of effort that failed.  I don’t want you to think that I’m a “glass is half-empty” person, and I’m actually quite happy and content with my little life and family, but I think anytime you’re in a losing streak in an attempt to reach personal goals, it’s hard to not internalize the little failures by saying, “I’m a loser.”

So, my failures…what were they?

Failure #1:  I coached a 2nd season of volleyball for my 9 year old daughter.  The first season, our team was in 5th place (of 6 teams), and the 2nd season, we were in 6th place (of 6 teams.)  We were the worst team hands down.  While some of this was out of my control, it’s hard not to think, wow, I’m just a terrible coach.

Failure #2:  My hobby is painting.  I decided to enter a Plein Air Painting competition in my local town.  I didn’t win.  I didn’t even come close.  I put a lot of time and money and emotional investment into it.  And really, I just wanted to win.  I wanted that validation that says, “hey you’re an awesome painter, keep doing it!”

Failure #3:  I’m a bit of a fitness fanatic.  You’ll find me at the gym 5 days a week for an hour at least.  My gym had this thing called a 60 day challenge and I entered hoping not even to win the whole thing, but at least to lose a few pounds and see some changes in my body.  Well, I lost 2 pounds.  And I don’t look different.  I didn’t change my diet enough, so in my book, my lack of effort on that end is the real failure.

Failure #4:  I applied for a job a week ago.  It’s yet to be seen if I will get the job, but I didn’t get a call or email or anything, so it’s weighing on my mind.  And because I’m in a losing streak it seems, I keep telling myself, “you’re not going to get that job.”

Am I just not good enough to “win”?  Do I not try hard enough?  What am I doing wrong?  This is the battle that is waged in my mind time and again over big things, little things, everything.  And I’m not naturally optimistic, so sometimes I have to stop myself, redirect, and consciously figure out how to see the silver lining in a negative situation.  So, I say to myself, “Ex Malo Bonum,” or Out of Bad Comes Good.  How do I turn these perceived failures into successes?  What am I doing RIGHT?  One major thing I am doing is raising three pretty awesome little girls and keeping the house running and my husband happy.  So, let’s change the perspective.  Yes.  Here we go:

Success #1 – Volleyball.  Okay, so we lost a lot of games.  A lot.  The “win” in the losing season is that my daughter still wants to play another season, she had fun, she made friends, and she did improve.   I saw all the other players improve too.  And, I had fun doing something with my daughter that is good exercise for both of us.  We just didn’t win much.  Still, my daughter begged me to coach again and maybe, just maybe we’ll actually win next season.

Success #2 – Painting.  It was only my first try!  Goodness, I was competing against some full time professional painters and this wasn’t their first rodeo.  Just because I didn’t win doesn’t mean I am not a good painter, it just means that on that day, someone else did it better.  To boot, I have had paying customers over the past year, commissioning me to do portraits and landscapes – something I didn’t know was possible a year ago.  So, keep calm and paint on.

Success #3 – Fitness.  I didn’t win the 60 day challenge.  But I don’t have much weight to lose anyway.  And I’m amazing.  I’m stronger than ever and I feel great.  I can do jumping jacks for days.  I can lift 2 of my kids onto each hip and carry them up and down stairs.  I can bike, swim, jump, and bench press.  I have made fitness part of my lifestyle, which is half the battle.  Tackling my diet will take time and more commitment, but I’m going to be realistic about it.  What’s life without chocolate?!

Success #4 – New Job.  I don’t really need a job right now.  That makes me very fortunate and I appreciate that every day.  This was going to be a fun job that I thought I could do well, even though it would be a stretch for me to do it while still taking care of my kids full time.  Maybe they haven’t reviewed all the applicants yet.  Maybe they have and they only needed 2 people and I just didn’t make the cut.  In any case, I’m proud of myself for trying, putting myself out there, and still pursuing new ideas and dreams.

As I look at the above list of my perceived failures, I know that my husband and my kids have seen my disappointment each time.  They have seen me get my hopes up and then watch the dreams disappear.  But, what I’m hoping that my kids have also seen is that I haven’t let the failures crush me.  I haven’t let them knock me down or make me want to quit trying.  I think, and I hope that I have failed gracefully.  Turning these little failures into successes is what helps to keep me going, to keep me always reaching for…More.

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