In one of my favourite movies, Apollo 13, there’s a famous dialogue where Ed Harris says “Failure is not an option.” By the way, I loved both the dialogue and the film. Well directed and a wonderful screen play indeed. However, sometimes such dialogues get so deeply and indelibly imprinted on our psyches that we take it for real and we feel that’s how it’s supposed to be. Set in stone. Fixed and can’t be changed. And from then onwards, anything we set out to do in life, we always think of the end result. Will we fail or succeed? Will we be able to accomplish what we set out to do? And if the answer is failure, then there are 3 possibilities: We either completely toss that dream in the bin without giving it a second thought and move on or start and give up too soon or if we do decide to carry on indefinitely, we have so much pressure of winning on our backs that we don’t really enjoy the ride. Life becomes one big drag. Can you imagine leading such a life? Bereft of fun and enjoyment.
You might say what if I do feel like my project is going to fail and I feel it very often. Shouldn’t I then give up and stop chasing my dream? Well, that depends on you. You can do whatever you like. I’m not saying go after your dreams or not. But I will tell you one thing, just because you are feeling like this doesn’t tell you anything about your project. It just tells you about your thinking in the moment. Right now, you are having thoughts of failure therefore you feel like a failure or your project failing. That’s it. It’s not objectively telling you anything about your project whether it will fail or succeed. Let me give you an example from my life, I’ve recently started my coaching business and I’ve spoken to a number of people about my business and about offering free coaching sessions and workshops but till now nobody has yet said a yes. Since the past 2 months, there’ve been many times where I’ve had thoughts of failure where I think this business is not going to succeed and to top it all I’ve got evidence. I’ve spoken to a few people and sent out nearly 200 emails promoting my service and despite offering free coaching, no one has yet come back and said a yes. And then there are times, when I feel super excited and confident that I will triumph and make a huge difference in the world. People are going to like it and see the difference it will make in their lives and I will be super successful making huge amounts of money. But remember, both thoughts of success and failure are not realities, they are not telling me anything about the situation, they are just telling me about my thoughts and feelings in the moment. Now you might disagree and say your thought of failure is objectively warning you that there is absolutely no interest in your services. Okay let’s say for a minute, you are right. Then why am I also still having thoughts of success when nothing has actually materialized on the outside. In that case, I should only have thoughts of doom and gloom.
Well, because that’s the way it works. We will have all sorts of thoughts regardless of what’s happening in reality. Sometimes good ones and sometimes not so good ones. To make it clear, let me give another example, say your spouse comes from work and he/she doesn’t speak to you. In your head, you think, yeah maybe, he/she is not happy with me for some reason. And you could have a myriad of thoughts why your spouse is unhappy: maybe when he/she called in the morning, I didn’t speak to him/her properly or I forgot to buy him/her his favourite snack or I didn’t whatsapp him/her back or a hundred other reasons. Then later you find out, the actual reason is because he/she is not feeling very well and has flu. So you see our minds can come up with anything and it may not be true but we take it as gospel.
Before ending, I just want to reiterate, failure is just a thought in our heads and it has no real substance. It’s like a soap bubble. When kids blow soap bubbles, the bubbles soar a little higher in the air and then burst automatically. That’s how failure thoughts or any kind of thoughts are, just soap bubbles that float and eventually burst. They have no permanence. And that’s good because next time you have failure thoughts you don’t need to take it seriously. Notice it for yourself. When you have failure or success thoughts or any other kind of thoughts, do they stay forever or it’s temporary and transient. You will see, one comes and goes and then another one comes and goes and then another one and so on and so forth just like trains on a station. Don’t take my word, see it for yourself and if you’d like, you can share your experience at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you and if you’d like a free coaching session on this topic or anything else on your mind, please feel free to contact me. In the meantime, as my favourite Coach Michael Neill says Happy Exploring!
Take care and have a lovely week!