Recently I came across an inspirational quote that says, “fall down seven times, get up on eight.” I thought, “That makes zero sense. Every time you fall down, you get back up.” Why make this distinction specifically on number 8?
I get what this quote is saying: no matter how often you fail, you should always get up. But why aren’t we discussing those previous seven failures?
I think about failure. A lot.
This quote got me thinking about my own perceived failures. For example, my partner and I currently eat a no added sugar, low sodium, no gluten (me, not my partner), no cow dairy (I’m allergic) diet. It took us weeks to get in the groove. We were not eating out; we cooked all of our meals; we figured out what foods worked best for us. I wasn’t really bored with what we’re eating but it wasn’t always a gourmet meal at every turn. We did great for a month until we celebrated an event by going out to eat and I ate things I wasn’t supposed to have. “Just this one time,” I said. And that one time became two, and then three, and then we were back to eating most of our meals at restaurants and all my hard work was pushed aside. I tried to be mindful of what I was eating but that took a backseat since the food tasted good, why did being mindful matte I thought, and so I kept eating. And sure enough, it wasn’t long before all the health problems I have eating the foods I shouldn’t be eating flared up again.
I began to look at patterns of thought on failure with conversations with friends. I want to live a mindful life; be kinder to others; I want to live a fulfilling life as well as one that is healthy; I want to be spiritually and creatively fulfilled. As I looked closely at those communication and thought patterns, I noticed how often I thought of myself as “failing”: I am not a good person, I’m mostly OK. I am not as kind to others as I should be. My life doesn’t feel that fulfilling though many people tell me I am strong and inspirational. My healthy lifestyle is in fits and spurts. The list goes on.
Why am I so hard on myself? Why am I not letting go?
Why do I feel like I am always failing?
But I want to go deeper. “Fall down seven, get up on eight.”
Other patterns I notice in the media I consume emerged: we aren’t really talking about our failures. Article after article gloss over the attempts and mostly concentrate on the successes. I get that, I do. Reading about success stories can be overwhelming because the first thing you want to do is compare yourself to the writer of that article against things you want but we want to read about them to reaffirm our own goals on moving forward. “It took them four submissions to get their book published and I’m rejected at every turn.” “They were able to lose weight / get a better job with almost no effort and I can’t do yoga or lose an ounce.”
We know none of these goals are easy to come by but yet we keep insisting success is as simple as playing the piano for the first time and assuming we’ll sound like Mozart.
It takes practice.
Fall down seven, get up on eight.
As these thoughts became ideas and the ideas became something I could work on. First, and this was hard, I had to make peace with my failures. Even Mozart, a prodigy, still had to practice to become, well, Mozart. Second, I had to look at failing as a positive step and not a negative one. This one is huge. Just because I wasn’t as generous with my heart with others doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. It means I needed to work on my own boundaries before I could give more to others in a way that mattered to me. Third, failing was a source of inspiration as it allowed me to explore outside of my boundaries. Failing is growth. Failing is acceptance. Failing allows me to fine tune my needs and wants to what best suited me allowing me to stop obsessing over others and working on making the best me that could possibly be.
Failing allows me to find different paths and tools. The whole world opens up when you fail.
Now, I see what I consider my failures to be gifts. Sometimes I am excited if things don’t work out because it allows me to reexamine my methods. Failing allows me to put faith in myself that I can do this thing, work at it, and the practice will eventually pay off. Failing reminds me I have tenacity and grit and creativity and patience.
Failing reminds me I am human and I have the capacity to do and be so much more than we originally set out to achieve.
We should often fail and fail spectacularly because you never know what could happen when you do.