“Failure is Not an Option” This powerful quote is associated with the Apollo 13 moon landing, you know, the one where Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon went to the moon…
In recent years, intolerance for failing has gone out of vogue. Big companies, leadership conferences and the movers and shakers of the world are embracing failure. But are all elements of failure being embraced equally?
“Fail fast, fail often” is now the often-heard cry of people looking to grow and develop in business and government. As a coach I love the failure space. That’s where we see new parts of ourselves, grow, and learn amazing lessons. Embracing failure is a key part of accepting ourselves and learning how to show up in our own lives more fully. When failure is no longer something to be feared, we can go forward and try new things, dare to chase our dreams, and more mundanely, we are more likely to own up to our mistakes, take responsibility and learn what lessons we can.
These are all good things, but we can’t have the benefits of failure without its sting. Embracing failure must not exclude its tender, painful moments. We can’t skip over the emotional elements and go straight to the redemption part of our story. Failing hurts and it can trigger some really difficult emotions in us; sadness, disappointment, guilt and the big one – shame.
These emotions are so powerful they can subtly shape our behaviour as we do whatever we can to avoid exposing ourselves to them. This can manifest as the tough conversation never had, the dream that stayed on the shelf, or the inner truth never voiced. The stakes are high.
So embracing failure really means embracing these uncomfortable emotions. And the best way I know how to do that is to practice self-compassion. With self-compassion we can sit with the discomfort of our failures and give ourselves comfort and love. We can do the scary thing despite the possibility of failing, because we know we will be there for ourselves if and when we stumble. We also become much better equipped to be there with compassion for our loved ones when they stumble.
So embracing failing is not just a trending hashtag, it’s a balls-to-the-wall act of bravery.
Breathe deep and feel those emotions. It will be OK on the other side.