Failing on Purpose

It’s time for me to find failure – I need to fail because its been way too long since I have failed. I would like to claim that this is because I’m some genius that does everything perfect 🙂 – but in reality this is because I’ve been playing the game of life too safe without taking risks that stretch me.

Finding failure became clear to through my workouts at the gym. I noticed that often times I would push the stop button on the treadmill or quit a couple reps short of completing a set because I didn’t think I could push myself and that I would fail. Instead of waiting for my legs to give out when running or failing to complete the next rep I would stop short.

In addition, I noticed that there were times when I ran at a pace that I knew I could comfortably complete my run at, and lift weights that I was confident I could complete the specified reps and sets with.

In both of these cases the fear of failing prevented me from really understanding what my true potential was. Until I actually fail, I will never know how fast I can run or how heavy I can lift. Interestingly, I realized that failure was the only method to understanding what my true potential is at the gym.

Just like in the gym, I believe life follows in the same vain. Unless I fail at something – fail miserably – I will never know what I am capable of doing. I will never understand what my true potential is, what my weaknesses are, and how I can push myself to develop until I fail at something.

As I reflect on some of the times I’ve been most proud of myself – it usually involved an experience of failure that challenged me to develop and eventually succeed. I felt this in school when I had a particularly rough schedule or tough material to study, I felt this in the first few months at both of the jobs I’ve had since graduating, and I’m starting to feel this way again as I expose myself to new experiences and set goals that at this point frankly seem unreachable and possibly destined for failure.

I’ve thought about this concept of failure several times throughout my 20s and what I’m realizing is that as I’m getting older failure is becoming more taboo. For some reason as we age I notice that we impose these expectations that we have to be perfect. Maybe this is because we feel that as we gain more experience we shouldn’t fail, or that the identity we spent so much time and effort building as we age makes failure a risky proposition.

I believe that this fear of failure is one of the main reasons why some of us confine ourselves to lives that don’t even scratch the surface of our true potential. Whether it is switching jobs, taking up a new hobby you suck at, or doing something outside of your comfort zone I think the fear of failure is involved in the decision making process. However, if we pursue failure instead of avoiding it who knows what we are capable of achieving.

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