This year I have done a lot of failing. I have failed at some little things and I have failed at some big important things. I have tried to be brave and it hasn’t gone so well. So I decided to quit trying. Until I heard Krista Tippett say this:
“What goes wrong for us is part of our gift to the world. It’s what enables us to connect and be compassionate.”
Oh great. Well, now I feel pretty lousy about quitting. If connection and compassion are the upside of failure, then continuing to try to be brave just might be worth it. If what goes wrong becomes part of our unique gift, then the failures can become the things that make the future exceptional.
So if we’re aware that we have the power the choose bravery and we agree that using our limited lifetimes to show up fully with what we’ve got is a good idea, then why don’t we just get on with it?
FEAR. That’s why.
What are you afraid of?
We’ve evolved to desire safety. On one hand, fear isn’t just psychological, it’s biological. We are hardwired to protect ourselves. This isn’t all bad. It keeps us from walking into traffic.
It also keeps us from risking emotional exposure. It keeps us from admitting we care about something. I don’t know about the circles you run in, but in many, caring isn’t that cool. Caring is a little square these days.
I think at the heart of it, we don’t do brave stuff because we fear two things:
1. We fear we might fail. If we fail, we’ll be judged. More than anything, we are wired for connection so our fear of disconnection keeps us sitting comfortably in the land of shoulds.
2. We fear we might succeed. If we succeed, if we become who we really are, this could be terrifying. Steven Pressfield writes “We know that if we embrace our ideals, we must prove worthy of them. And that scares the hell out of us.”
Will we wind up alone? Sure, if we are brave we might lose some things, but what we find will be deeper and truer and better than we could have imagined. It will be more than enough.
So what will happen if you fail?
I have failed. You will fail too. But the willingness to fail is the cost of doing something that matters. If we only do the things where success is guaranteed, we may never do big important things. We can engineer our lives to stay small and successful, but at what expense?
I propose that risking failure is worth it. Why? Because pain and adversity are what breed hope.
Brené Brown says “Hope is a function of struggle. Hope is not an emotion. It is a cognitive behavioral process that we learn when we experience adversity, when we have relationships that are trustworthy, when people have faith in our ability to get out of a jam.”
Wait just a second. If hope is a product of adversity, then hope comes from being brave. From getting in the ring instead of sitting in the stands. I’ll sign up for that. But how?
How exactly do I practice courage? If I know what brave thing I must do, what next? That’s part 3.