Monday Meditation: Embracing failure is the foundation for success

I’ve taken up bouldering in the last year (indoor only for now), and yesterday I went climbing in the morning for a couple of hours.

While there, it occurred to me that one year ago not only was I less capable than I am now – after all, skills improve over time – but I was also far more afraid of falling.

Don’t get me wrong; when I am at the top of the wall and need to do a tricky move to complete the climb, I am still scared, and I sometimes abandon the climb if I don’t feel the attempt is safe. But what I don’t do is worry about falling, and, as a consequence, I don’t worry so much about failing. Rather, I ask myself, is this within my abilities? If yes, then I attempt the move. If no, then I climb back down.

In the former case, when I am going to try for the final or tricky hold, I allow myself to think: I could fall, I should be prepared. This is for the simple reason that if I acknowledge this possibility, I can plan for it, and in the process, I allow myself permission to brace for that outcome so that the landing will be, at the very least, a less bad one. As a result, I not only feel more secure in making an attempt, but more assured that in the case of failure I will have done whatever I can to help myself recover.

This is a pivotal issue for many people, and it was for me too. Namely, they are afraid to fail, so they do not try, or, potentially even worse, they recklessly delude themselves with the nonsensical mantras: “I cannot fail” or “Failure is not an option.”

Climbing, with its inherent risk (and I have seen some bad falls), has taught me, out of necessity, that if you accept the possibility of failure you can turn fear into mindful preparation so that you can make an attempt and just fall if you need to.

In this way, I am teaching myself that “Failure is just an outcome,” and that “Failure is something I can ameliorate.” – I am not its slave, and this gives me the courage to strive.

The first two approaches, of the coward or the blowhard, will either paralyse you or make you take foolish risks. And they will also prevent you from admitting and embracing the truth, that failure is always out there, underneath everything you do.

I now know, from learning to fall, that failure is always a possibility, but that accepting this is the foundation of deliberate progress and measured success – that taking the appropriate attitude to benefiting from the occurrences of failure can allow you to fall, as you sometimes must, as gracefully as you can.

Monday Meditation: Are you becoming the person you would most admire?

This weekend was an accidental experiment of the old and new.

What do I mean by that?

I had one “good” day and one “bad”.

I mean that on one day I set out to be the man I wish to be. A man who dedicates himself to contentment, equanimity, creativity and mindful living. I meditated, I exercised, I wrote with passion, and I met the challenges of the day with good grace.

On the other, I was the man I used to be every day, until a relatively short time ago. A man who dithers, takes minimal action, waits for life to offer him happiness on a platter, and bemoans his circumstances. A man who woke up late, wasted the morning, struggled to get out of the house, paid little attention to everything he should be grateful for; his health, his comfortable lifestyle, his lack of basic needs.

That latter man can stay in the weekend. I will be busy being the former.

Meditating on it this morning, I find I am grateful this happened, that I spent a day feeling utterly bereft of life-fulness.

Why?

Because it reminded me that the man I am becoming, day by day, through a commitment to regular meditation, purposeful exercise, moral diet, self-reflection, focussed commitment and shameless creativity; is a man I would have looked up to just a few years ago. A man who I would have secretly envied, a man who one cannot deny has earned every drop of contentment he can wring from life.

So, to meditate this morning, ask yourself what man (or woman) are you choosing to become?

Someone you would have admired as a child, or looked up to as a teenager?

Or are you becoming (or have you become) a person you wouldn’t even want to spend a day with, let alone 24 hours every day, for the rest of your existence?

It’s a hard question to give an honest answer to, but I truly believe that an honest answer to it will change your life.

Have a life-full week.