With a common definition of “not succeeding,” it’s no wonder failing gets a bad rap. However, if you look farther down the list of definitions, in most dictionaries you’ll find an alternative meaning that I consider more accurate and constructive:
FAILING=”not meeting expectations.”
Failing is not BAD. Some of my greatest learning experiences have come from what looked like my greatest fiascos. Sometimes, years after the event, I can see how things not going the way I planned proved a better path for revealing and advancing the highest good for all, in all, through all. The decisions and efforts I am tempted to label as failures or mistakes are just things I tried that didn’t deliver the result I expected in the way and time I hoped.
Through a lifetime of experimentation that continues to yield surprising results, I am the ongoing beneficiary of the two great blessings of failure.
By identifying yet another path
that doesn’t lead to my desired destination,
I am that much closer
to discovering the ones that do.
Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything.” He was fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive.” As an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb before he finally succeeded. When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. I didn’t fail even once. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” Well worth the effort. Bless you, Thomas, for not giving up.
In your perceived failures, you’ve already gained more glory, strength and character than if you had stayed in your comfort zone, wishing, wanting and waiting for another safer day.
There is no success without experimentation.
And, by its very nature, experimentation includes the unknown and unpredictable, so it means being willing to try things that may not turn out the way you hoped, expected or planned. Just have the courage and faith to take the next baby step in whatever direction seems best.
The sooner you eliminate all of the paths that don’t lead to success, the sooner you’ll find your authentically glorious path to greatness. Courage isn’t a lack of fear or complete assurance that all will go well. Courage means being willing to dare and fail greatly, knowing that every experience, however painful, is an opportunity to increase wisdom and compassion for your self and others.
My “failures” offer me the opportunity
to deepen my demonstration of unconditional love, respect, curiosity, compassion and gratitude
for every aspect of myself and my journey.
While many spiritual traditions teach this lesson, when I hit rock bottom in 2009—physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually—it was through Pema Chödrön’s teachings on Buddhism that I finally learned to apply it to myself. What can I say, in some subjects, I’m a slow learner.
I used to think Buddhists were people who had risen above normal human experience. They were always very “zen”—chanting and not caring about anything. Boy, was I clueless. According to Pema, Buddhism isn’t about escaping your emotions, it’s about embracing them—the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s about awakening your heart with constant awareness of yourself and your feelings.
It’s about observing all of it
with love and curiosity—accepting
everything about yourself,
especially the most frustrating aspects.
The point of enlightenment is not to become superior and feel no pain. It’s to open your heart wider and wider to your own pain and, through that experience, to the pain of others. It’s to help you develop deeper love and true empathy for yourself and everyone else. So you can finally connect to all of humankind on the most profound level by understanding we are all fundamentally the same. We are all Just Human.
What might happen if you began embracing
the amazing and liberating possibility
that the love of your life just might be you.
Many people tell me it feels selfish to think in those terms and that we are supposed to love and care for “our neighbor.” I remind them we are also supposed to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” Many of us would end up in court or prison if we treated our neighbors the way we treat ourselves.
I am reminded of the adage, “Charity begins at home.” If, according to Merriam-Webster, charity is “benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity” or at a minimum “lenient judgment of others,” then I suggest it has to begin at home; it has to begin with me.
My ability to love others unconditionally
is directly dependent on whether
I love myself unconditionally.
While, as a good actor, I can fake it by keeping all the judgmental voices inside my head, as with many things in life, there is a vast difference between faking it and the real thing.
So what does this kind of love look like? According to a well-known treatise on the subject found in 1 Corinthians 13:4–8 of the Bible (New International Version),
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
Imagine applying these to yourself. Being patient with and kind to yourself. Not being envious, believing you deserve the best of everything. Always honoring and trusting your personal truth. Respecting your abilities and the decisions you have made. Always nurturing and protecting yourself. Persevering with loyalty to yourself no matter what. Paying attention to and demonstrating compassion for whatever you are feeling. Recognizing and being grateful for your many gifts and talents. Pierre Tielhard de Chardin captured the importance of this way of living when he wrote,
“Someday, after mastering the winds,
the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall
harness for God the energies of love,
and then, for a second time in the history
of the world, [we] will have discovered fire.”
This is the very heart of the personal transformation I’ve experienced in my own life and the lives of my clients. With the compassionate guidance of many spiritual elders, I am learning to harness the energy of love and approach myself, every being, encounter, and experience with love.
This way of living is a path, a journey, not a destination. It is not about self-improvement. It is about becoming aware and awakening my heart, moment by moment, day by day. This path to deep peace, lasting joy, and meaningful relationships begins with a three-part commitment to myself:
I fuel myself with optimal constructive energy.
I am powerful.
It is interesting that those who learn to fall in love with themselves are actually less likely to behave selfishly. Their joy and peace are contagious. They show up in their families, friendships, and workplaces with a spring in their step and a zest for living that carries them, and those around them, forward in new and exciting directions.
My clients are men and women; young and not so young; single, divorced, or married. What they have in common is an unflinching commitment to knowing themselves better and doing the deep and rewarding work necessary to make the lives they dream of a reality. Their real-life stories and mine send a clear, consistent message:
When we spend our lives
not taking care of ourselves,
eventually we are no good
to ourselves or anyone else.
We cannot share anything of lasting value with others by giving from an empty well. When we learn to treat ourselves with love in every moment, then—and only then—will we find ourselves able to be of genuine service to others.
The bottom line? It’s not just okay to fall in love with yourself. It’s essential. When you fall in love with yourself, everything else finally falls into place. This transformation arises from a fundamental shift in your head and heart.
Once love transforms your
relationship with yourself,
it can’t help but transform
your personal life and work
in ways that will exhilarate you.
Your more constructive personal energy will automatically transform every being and situation you encounter. You will, by your very presence, quite literally transform the world.
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