I Don’t Have to Fail
Hi, this is Coach MK and this is the Morning Mantra - a microdose of confidence to kickstart your day. Today’s mantra is: “I don’t have to fail.”
The word failure really kind of intrigues me - both as somebody who has way too much education and has spent a lot of time around overachievers. Let me tell you, what has informed my parenting more than anything else is the fact that I’m from rural Tennessee. All I had to do to exceed expectations, including those of my parents, was not get married, or pregnant, or arrested, before I graduated from high school. That is not a joke, that was all I had to do. I’ve been winning at life since I was 17 years old.
As soon as I went to college, it became really clear to me that was not the case for everybody. Most people had been losing since they were in Kindergarten, and that is a scary, scary thought. So I guess it’s no wonder that so many of those adults have grown up and have now become clients of mine. And the idea of failure still haunts them. It’s like it’s all they know. And trying to re-frame their perspective is difficult. Most of us are hardwired to judge our success and “winning!” based on whether or not we achieve the result we set out to achieve. Anything other than doing exactly what we said we would do, and checking that tiny little box that we wrote ourselves on the checklist, is tantamount to failure. Either you do it exactly as written or you might as well have not even tried! It’s like walking on a tightrope - that’s a really limiting and scary way to live life.
I’ve failed a lot, y’all, and it has been the source of some of my greatest strengths, my greatest successes - all really stem from a failure. Failure is not something that I’m afraid of. I feel like if you haven’t really failed, you haven’t tried - something new, something interesting, something outside of the box or outside of your comfort level. And if you’ve never done that, then what have you learned?
I often wonder, what are people so afraid of? And I’m guessing that like the first is this hard baked idea that, y’know, with enough preparation, you’ll never fail. Well for the Type A personalities amongst us, and perfectionists, most of us have been told, grow up to be the best leaders among all humans, y’know, that mandates a recipe for disaster. All that preparation can often lead to rumination. And y’all know how I feel about rumination - that’s not problem solving, that’s spinning your wheels. That’s literally getting you nowhere. So the second thought is this idea, that failure is the worst thing imaginable. And I just don’t think that’s true. And I wonder where that came from. And I wonder why so many of my clients totally believe it.
And maybe it’s because I’m just happy being mediocre, and mediocre is awesome. Maybe my idea is wrong, but maybe yours is too, is what I’m trying to say.
Now if I was to challenge you with one notion today, it would be this: Maybe! Maybe, just maybe, you don’t have to fail, in the sense of the term as you know it. Meaning maybe failure isn’t the worst thing ever, and maybe we can avoid it.
Here’s an example. I like to talk in my household about preparing to fail. Here’s what I mean: If you were to open up my fridge, you would see a big ol’ container of spinach that has probably not been opened. And you will also see two containers of hard boiled eggs. These containers each contain two hard boiled eggs, and I get these from CostCo every Sunday night as part of my regular weekly delivery. Why? In a worst case scenario, I will not fail to eat.
Obviously number one is having a meal with my family, and having something really nutritious, and it’s a bonding exercise. Yay! That never happens. I’m over it. Maybe it will someday. That’s like my aspirational - kind of like pretty abs on Instagram.
Plan B is like, I just want to eat, right? And I need to eat and I probably haven’t thought about it until it’s really late at night and I don’t want to order foods, so I prepare to fail. I assume it’s great if Plan A happens and I get to eat like a grownup, but if Plan B is where I’m at, Plan B is not going to bed hungry. Plan B involves salad scissors, a big ol’ box of spinach, two fistfulls so I can get my veggies, and a couple of hard boiled eggs. Toss it all in with a little bit of salad dressing, salt and pepper, chop it up. And it’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing! And it’s not a pizza. It’s not frozen food, and it takes less time to prepare that than it does to heat up my kid’s chicken nuggets. And believe me, there have been some nights when I have DONE that.
So here’s your thought for the day: If I was to define failure the same way most of you do, I would be like “man, I failed again. I didn’t eat today. I didn’t have a grownup meal today.” I’m like, “I ate today. WINNING!” Whatever it is. Maybe the person who is defining failure incorrectly is you.
Maybe you don’t have to fail. Maybe you never did. Maybe you’ve been winning all along, because you prepared to fail in some way or another. Or maybe all those times you refused to prepare a Plan B, when you refused to prepare to fail, you were actually short-changing yourself in a way that was really arguably stupid, because why would you go to bed hungry? To punish yourself for not having time to make a proper meal. YAY! I wonder why you’re punishing yourself, because I think you’re pretty spectacular.
And that’s not just because you are coached and you are loved and you are winning at life. It’s because I actually mean it and you are terrific. You don’t have to fail. And I bet if you really think about it, all those times you thought you were failing, you weren’t at all.
Coach MK Fleming is the founder of Fitness Protection, LLC where she coaches all kinds of runners for $30 per month and gives marathon plans away for free. Click here to download her Marathon Selection Guide!