“Failure is an important part of your growth and developing resilience. Don’t be afraid to fail.” - Michelle Obama
Do you have trouble following through on your goals or resolutions? Do you easily give up? What holds you back from moving in the direction of your dreams?
The fear of failure is probably the first thing that comes to mind. No one likes to fail. No one likes to lose. Coming in last in a race doesn’t earn you bragging rights, but having the courage to run does.
Next month marks my eighth “California-versary,” the beginning of my new life in California. On June 28th of every year, I celebrate my courage to move 3,000 miles from my small New England hometown in Connecticut to the beachy city of San Diego. Moving so far away from everyone and everything I knew to start over at 40 years old was the biggest risk I’ve ever taken. It has also been the biggest challenge of my life. This anniversary means even more to me than my wedding anniversary because without it there wouldn’t have been a wedding anniversary. (I met my husband after only living here two months!)
When I first told people I wanted to move to California, some said I couldn’t do it. In fact, some said I was crazy because I didn’t have a job lined up, a place to live, or a lot of money to start a new life. I understood their point of view and I admit it even made me afraid at times. But, l also still believed it was possible. People in the same position move all the time. I wasn't going to move to Beverly Hills. So, every time they said I can’t, I had to keep telling myself I can.
Then, I found out the real reason why they criticized my plans. They also wished they could move to sunny San Diego, but they said they couldn't because they had jobs and houses and were married with children. When I told them to quit their jobs, sell their houses, and move their families, they said they just couldn't. Yet, military families move all the time. People quit and get new jobs all the time. You don't have to stay where you are if you're unhappy.
What they were really saying was they were afraid. They didn't have the courage to take a risk. They questioned what if they quit their jobs, sold their houses, and uprooted their families only to find out their plans didn’t work? What if their new jobs didn’t work out? What if they had trouble getting a new job? What if they didn’t like living so far away from their friends? What if they didn’t like living in California?
My response: What if they did?
I believe if there's something about your life or yourself that you don’t like, then it’s up to you to do something about it. I believe that anything in life worth having is also worth the risk, time, and effort it takes to get it. But to get anything you truly want in life requires courage and unwavering self-belief.
I believed my destiny was calling me to San Diego. I believed in my dreams of living by the ocean. I believed I would find the love of my life and my life purpose here. I believed I owed it to myself to find out if I was right, and I was! If I had let the fear of failure stop me, I never would have found out.
This anniversary marks the year I stopped letting other people define my life. It celebrates the year I stopped letting my fear of what others think get in the way of living my best life. I define my life. I define what I choose to believe, value, do, be, and how I wish to pursue my goals and dreams. After all, it's my life, isn't it? Why do we give our power away to fear or to others who live in fear of "what ifs?"
I felt lucky because my family supported my dream. They wanted to see me happy. Their love and support was all that mattered to me. From an emotional standpoint, I admit that their support made it easier for me to move. I remember the moment before I got on the plane, my father sat me down on a bench outside of the airport. He's not one to sit me down for anything so I knew whatever he was about to say would be important. Very gently, he told me he admired my courage to go after my dreams of happiness, but if it wasn't working out that it's OK to come back home. He reminded me that there's no shame in trying something even if it failed. His kind words only made me want to succeed even more. I wanted to show him I was no quitter, but the truth was I didn’t have to. He already knew my brave spirit. He saw it in my mother when she risked losing everything she knew by leaving her homeland to move to America to be with him. He knows all too well that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Are your dreams worth taking a risk? By risk I mean stepping so far out of your comfort zone that your ego or pride feels exposed if your plans don’t work. Taking risks are essential to growth and the foundation for developing courage and confidence. It takes courage to take steps in the direction of your dreams. It takes courage to continue taking steps despite the fear, doubt, and challenges you face. Courage and confidence are your superpowers. You either use them or you don't, but they cannot be given away. They cannot be taken from you either.
Sure, life can be a bumpy road. It can be a steep, hilly climb. And, it can be long and winding. There will be things around the corner that you couldn’t have predicted or anticipated. There will be twists and turns that make you sick. You might stumble. You might skin your knee or get a bruise. But, when you look back at how far you’ve come in your journey, you can better appreciate the feeling of success upon your arrival. Those scrapes and bruises you got along the way are proof you showed up for your own life. You just have to hang in there long enough to find out what it would feel like to finally get there. If you give up, you’ll never know the satisfaction of arriving at your destination. The only sure way to fail is to turn around and give up.
Don’t let your dreams be bullied by your fear of failure. Besides, without some failure, how would you develop resilience? If you were an athlete, how would you expect your muscles to get bigger and stronger without resistance? How would you get stronger without anything heavy to lift, carry, push, resist or fight? Resistance comes in the form of setbacks and challenges. This part of pursuing your dreams is what builds resilience.
When pursuing a goal or dream, it’s reasonable to expect setbacks and challenges. They can make you feel like you're failing. But, failure is not a definitive end unless you give up. In other words, a failure is just an opportunity to try again until you get it right. It’s just another step to learn in the journey. It’s another piece of the puzzle to complete the picture or another clue to solving the mystery of your destiny. It doesn’t mean to stop or give up. You’re another step closer to realizing a goal or dream. In fact, any sign of failure is a sign to keep going.
With courage and self-belief, anything is possible. You just have to make the most of what you have, such as your resources, skills, and connections. But, most of all, you must rely on a positive mindset and a strong inner compass to achieve anything you truly want in life.
Don’t let anyone’s attitudes or actions interfere with whatever you need to do to live your best life. Don’t let someone else’s self-limiting beliefs become your own. Don’t lower your standards. Don’t sacrifice your beliefs, values, or ethics. And, don’t give up your dreams for anyone. Satisfaction will come when you realize you’ve done your best and given it everything you’ve got. No one can take that away from you.
Don’t let fear of failure stop you, my Pineapple. Be brave enough to fail and keep going!
Live, Love and Lead with Aloha.