Raise your hand if you’re panicking about what to do with the rest of your life. Cool. Now, raise your hand if you ate an entire sleeve of cookies last night about it. Cool (me too). Now, raise your hand if you feel like everyone has their shit together except for you and you should really know better by now.
Awesome. Good talk.
For the record: I raised my hand for all three. Because while life can be challenging and we know that our brains sometimes play tricks on us, we also know that intellectually knowing these things doesn’t make us feel like it’s 100% real in the moment. Living a life that is exciting and awesome can be hard. Actually, it’s almost guaranteed to be hard. So even when we read things that encourage us to “fail faster” or “use our failure as fuel”, I think we can all agree sometimes it’s a little easier said than done. And while I would love to use failure as my fuel (because, believe me, I wouldn’t have to worry about running out for a *long* time), it’s not easy. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t teach ourselves how to do it.
Failure is not an amazing feeling. It can feel terrible, and like you’ve done something wrong, or have squandered an opportunity.
We’re scared of getting fired. Having no money. Dying alone. Never accomplishing anything, let alone what we really want to do.
How do I put this? Everyone feels this way. (Does that make it better or worse? Both? That’s fair.)
I think it’s safe to say that everyone thinks they’re going to die alone in a cardboard box at some point (or most of the time). But it’s also comforting because you have to know that if we all feel this way, it can’t totally be real. It might feel very real at times, but it just means we all share the same 5-6 thoughts. Sometimes there’s a variation, but mostly it’s the same things. It’s actually kind of boring when you think about it. You’re better than that. I promise you. Yes, risks will need to be taken. But, this is what bravery is. And courage. And exactly what you need to get anything done in this world.
We are willing to do a lot of things to avoid feeling like we failed. However, here’s the catch: Failure feels better than doing nothing.
It’s where all the good stuff is. The lessons (or at least the worthwhile ones). Growth is interesting, plateauing is boring. Energy needs to shift and move; stagnancy is where we begin to suffocate. We are here to be challenged and satisfied because we overcame said challenges and learned what we are really made of. We’re not afraid of work; we’re just worn out by busy work. We’re tired of working relentlessly on the wrong things. We don’t need work to be easy, but we want it to feel significant, like we’re getting somewhere. We want to feel like we are helping, or doing something worthwhile, instead of just spinning our wheels and waiting for something to change. Work gets so much of our time and energy; of course we’d rather it be something we enjoy.
So, what can we do? Here’s my suggestion. Make failure the goal.
Start here: ask yourself three questions. What will happen if I try this thing and it works out? What will happen if I try this thing and fail? What will happen if I don’t try this thing at all?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that what you’re afraid of happening is not what will happen if you fail. It’s actually what will happen if you do nothing. We think it’s the disappointment of failure that will hurt the most. But we’re wrong. At least, failure gives us an answer. Maybe it’s not the one we had hoped for, but at least it’s a closed loop. Doing nothing allows our brains to run wild with the possibilities of just how badly we could fail. Usually this is a fear that stems from doing nothing.
But, if we actually fail, there are no elaborate fantasies to be had. The answer is we failed. We know exactly how and, hopefully, why so we can do something differently in the future. Failure does not mean you don’t deserve what you want – it means you extra deserve what you want.
Remember, none of this will kill you. It’s all part of the plan. If you want to be brave and strong, these are the things that will make you brave and strong. They never get easier. Ever. The people who tell you it gets easier are lying. You get more used to gearing yourself up to leap. You get more used to what it will feel like if you *don’t* do it. Yes, you might be scared. But I promise you this: you will be even madder if you do nothing.
SARA KRAVITZ helps corporate women who feel like they’ve lost some of their own personal identity figure out if they should quit their jobs so they can stop dreading Sunday nights. She is a career coach, author, and speaker who helps helps people understand (but, like, really understand) that this doesn’t have to be life. You can climb out of every hole. It might be awkward and uncomfortable at times (in fact, you can probably guarantee it will be), but there’s always a solution. (Even for you.)
You can download her international, bestselling book, Just Tell Me What I Want, for free here.