As a proud new grandpa, I enjoy watching our grandbaby explore. He looks at the world as a fresh new adventure. Every piece of furniture is a new mountain to climb and anything on the floor is something to touch, feel . . . and try to eat.
He is unconcerned with failure. If he falls. He gets up again. It doesn’t seem to cross his mind that there is anything wrong with repeatedly falling flat on his face. He wants to learn how to stand. He wants to learn how to walk. And he is not going to stop trying until he is successful.
Yet something happens as we age. We lose our fearlessness. We develop an inner critic that echoes endlessly in our head. We feel people are judging us and, to protect ourselves, we start judging ourselves first.
Of course, we all want to catch and correct our mistakes. But this becomes unhealthy when all we can see are the mistakes…and the possible mistakes…and the “this looks totally perfect but what if there’s invisible flaw” mistakes.
When excellence becomes obsession, you’re setting yourself up for epic failure. And depriving yourself of the skills needed to bounce back from such a failure.
Stop and ask yourself, “Am I trying to do the best job possible or am I trying to avoid failing as much as possible?”
Don’t focus on what happens if you fail. Focus on what happens if you succeed.
Interrupt the video running through your head of how your whole world will collapse if you make the smallest mistake. Replace that with a picture of progress. How will it look and feel when you complete the next step? How will that set you up for success on the following step?
Maybe there was once a real threat of being eaten by a wild creature if you made a tiny error. But today, if we don’t create the perfect PowerPoint at work, we’re going to be okay.
Before my grandson was born, I thought of all the new things I could teach him. It turns out I am learning from him. I’m learning that it’s okay not to know the answer, it’s okay to fall if I get back up. A single step forward should be celebrated. We need not fear failure but embrace it as a wonderful tool to learn from.