Learning Lessons and Finding Encouragement in Failure

When things don’t go as expected, we tend to think we failed at something and we can easily be subdued by burdensome feelings of defeat. We have a choice in those moments, to accept the experience as a valuable lesson and move through it or to be overcome by loathing. It’s pertinent now more than ever, but I realize that it isn’t what happens to us that’s as important as the narrative we construct around what happens to us. We can look at failure as a small dip in an otherwise fulfilling upward climb, or we can look at failure as falling into a new low in life and linger there in anguish.

 I have had some time off in between work assignments to go back home to family and friends. Being alone for months, I had the freedom and space to cultivate a series of healthy mental practices like meditation, self-love talk, gratitude, redirecting negative thoughts, being patient, and being less quick to judge others. I had a false sense of confidence and didn’t realize that being back with family and friends would easily push me back into old relationship dynamics and thought processes. I thought I had changed and that I would simply go home as a new person and everything would be great.

Well, let’s just say that things did not go as planned. I reverted back to my auto-pilot mentality and without being mindful and vigilant of new situations, I found I was not applying my healthy mental practices I had been doing while alone. I got caught up in the stress and obligation of trying to visit with everyone in my brief period of time back home. I let my racing thoughts and mind consume me and it was hard to find peace of mind in the chaos. I stopped meditating, I stopped talking up to myself and I found that I slipped back into the framework of mind of my past. I was quick to anger and judge, temperamental, and felt a nagging tension in my body throughout my time off.

This was supposed to be my time off. This was supposed to be relaxing and while I did have many wonderful encounters with family and friends, it didn’t meet my expectation of what I thought would happen. I wasn’t myself and I wasn’t as engaged with the present and with others that I had been in my time away. I could look at this as a failure to adapt and apply my mental tools to new situations and perhaps it is, but it is also a valuable lesson in what not to do and I feel like I got to know myself and my tendencies throughout all of this.

If we are to grow and really cultivate a better mind and framework for our lives, we have to put in the work, always, every day. I thought that the tools and understandings I had learned in my time off would be enough to facilitate continuity in this transitional time and I could just run on auto-pilot. I now have seen firsthand the results of switching to auto-pilot mode and not being engaged with what’s happening. Without consistent practice, without a hyper-awareness and vigilance going into new situations, it can all just crumble like a stack of cards.

Self-growth is discipline. Self-growth is work. Self-growth is consistency, mindfulness, and vigilance. It can not happen without an active, engaged, and aware mind. It has to be nurtured every day. I got lulled into a false sense of confidence and now I understand my tendency to switch back to a lazy mindset, to auto-pilot. Auto-pilot is not a benign mentality. Auto-pilot is dangerous and regressive. Without active engagement in positivity, gratitude, and self-love, my default mind takes over which is much less patient, less resilient, passive, and generally a lot more negative. So, some lessons I have learned on my time off:

  1. Be mindful and vigilant always!
  2. Self-love is a daily exercise. Practice it all day, every day. Do not let it waiver, for switching the paradigm from needing validation from others to supplying it for yourself is the most powerful transition we can make.
  3. Understand that when we interact with people we have known for a while like family and friends, we tend to fall back into a particular pattern of behaviors based on the history of the dynamic of that relationship. If you don’t like the dynamic, be mindful and work to change it. Open up, communicate, and form healthier patterns.
  4. Without practice, I fall back into altered mindsets from my past that are negative and disconnected. Practice! Mental health is a muscle to be worked every day.
  5. Our mindset and mood can be altered not by what happens to us but the story we weave about what happens to us. If the narrative you are framing a situation around is negative and non-helpful, thwart it and create a new narrative in its place that is based on progress, positivity, gratitude, and connectedness.
  6. Speaking of narrative, it’s important to change the way we tell the story of our failures. Our failures are not hinderances to the way, they are the way. They are part of the journey and the climb. Utilize failures for lessons, enlightenment, and encouragement.

I will take this time to reflect on my experience and to use the lessons to grow and form a deeper understanding of myself and the people around me. It’s easy to look at the past couple weeks and think that I am regressing but I am not. This is only a bump in the road. When I scale back over the past year, I can see the bigger picture of the progress I have made and that is encouraging. We tend to focus on little details of the recent past to form our story, but scaling back and looking at the bigger picture of our lives is often revealing and shows the actually scale of progress being made. You are all doing a wonderful job. You are right where you need to be. Trust yourself and trust the process to lift you up to new heights. Set-backs, failures, and disappointments are all part of the journey and its okay. It’s what teaches us, makes us stronger, and shines a new light of understanding in our lives to illuminate the path in new ways. ❤

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