My imperfections and my failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents, and I lay them both at his feet. ~Mahatma Gandi
But ooohhh man, did I seriously used to think they were failures!
Let me tell you a little bit about the committee in my head. Or maybe I don’t need to; you probably already know all about the one in yours. But just in case, my committee is the one that constantly repeats the refrain:
“You. Are. Never. Going. To make it!”
Or, “If you don’t start (doing x, y, or z,) you’re never going to get anywhere!” “Oh my God, you always (fill in the blank – whatever it is, it’s not good according to the committee.)” In sum, every time I don’t manage to do something I set out to do, or I don’t succeed in changing a behavior, the consensus of the committee is: “Fail. You know, we really don’t think you have what it takes.”
Yeah, I know.
But what do you do when all this stuff so totally feels like a failure? What about that To Do list with so little crossed off? What about the dishes that are piling up, or the clothes I haven’t put away, or the emails I haven’t responded to, or the workout plan I haven’t stuck to, or the diet I haven’t been adhering to?
Aren’t those all failures?
I’ve got good news and bad news for you, sisters and brothers. The answer is a resounding
So what are these things then?
They’re your path to growth.
I know, I know. You’re thinking that these things might be a path to growth if you could either finally just start or stop doing whatever it is you think you need to do or not do.
Not so, bro.
The answer lies not in changing your behavior. The answer lies in changing your thinking.
I mean, seriously, the only thing that comes from the committee in your head is a whole lotta shame. I don’t know about you, but I know for me shame just shuts me down. Not a whole lotta changing happening here. Just a bunch of cringing and hiding. Does that sound like progress to you?
So what can you do?
There are two things you can do.
One is just to say to yourself that it’s okay, even if it doesn’t feel like it.
For example, if I didn’t get the dishes done today, it’s okay. I don’t have to go into morbid reflection on how they were just going to keep piling up and somehow, by failing to do this one thing, my whole apartment was going to be a disaster. And then of course, back to the same refrain: If you don’t get your shiz together, you are never going to make it!
It’s ooookay. None of this kind of stuff I tell myself is true. Yes, my head is a little clearer if things are tidy, but sometimes something has to give. Sometimes A LOT has to give. So then what?
How ’bout a little change in perspective?
What if there are no problems?
What if there are no failures?
What if it’s all just an experiment?
What if it’s all just data?
What if, each time you were confronted with a behavior – or even a person – you wish were different, you just shrugged your shoulders and said, “Huh, I wonder what that’s about?” (And remember, especially if it concerns another person, you’re asking about yourself, not someone else.)
Ask the question and I promise the Universe will answer it.
And rather than spinning in more and more useless shame, you’ll get some information you can actually do something with.
Now, sometimes that information is simply that whatever you’re doing or not doing is really not that big of a deal, and God, the Universe, or your Higher Power would really like you to just get over it already.
But sometimes the information is a light bulb going off, a piece of the puzzle you didn’t see before because you were too busy lashing out at yoursel. Or maybe it’s a piece of the puzzle you did see, but you were too mired in the shame to do anything with it. Either way, now you’ve got something to go on.
So, back to the dishes. One of the things I struggle to clean regularly is the juicer. And if you juice, you know that juicers are a real pain in the a** to clean. So, when I started to do these two things, I actually had both things happen:
First, I realized that if I cleaned the juicer right after I used it, I was both more likely to actually clean it, and I was more likely to juice again the next day.
And guess what that led to? Cleaning the juicer everyday?
Well, actually, no. It led to cleaning the juicer more frequently. And the days I don’t clean the juicer, and I do so knowing that I probably won’t clean it that day and that I may not juice the next. Which led me back to step one: It’s okay. It’s not that big of a deal. Get over it. Yes, there are some people out there who juice several times, but there are also tons of people who don’t even know what it is to juice.
Either way, the message I got was: You’re doin’ fine, Madeleine. You’re doin’ just fine.
You see, what I realized in this process is that my challenges are not failures. They’re not this foreboding neon sign flashing above my head and my life indicating that I’m headed for doom. They are the very direction of my growth.
My problems are the “START HERE” sign.
They’re the direction of your growth, too, and I’d love to hear about it. Do you have an example of how what you thought were your problems or your failures were actually your path to growth? If so, leave a comment below. And if you liked this, please share it with your friends!