Happy Monday YOGANONYMOUS friends! I hope you all had a great weekend!
This week’s mantra is based around a story of failure. I have about a zillion stories of failure (as we all should; failure is part of the process, yo!), but this particular one has been attacking my consciousness pretty heavily.
This past weekend, I was competing in a triathlon, my first ever. Now, I’m an endurance athlete who has willed herself to finish marathons with seemingly nothing but a mantra and some Gatorade. I’ve definitely been underprepared for races in the past and have just dug deep and pulled out some crazy inner strength and powered through. It’s one of the miracles of the mind and the body and is part of what I love about competing.
So there I was, standing on the shore of the lake, goggles covering my eyes, swim cap pulled tight. I was about to dive into the water, and my stomach was doing little flip flops. I hadn’t trained very hard for this event. Actually, I hadn’t trained at all. Between a few long weekend vacations, a big endurance relay the weekend before, and a busy work season, I had barely event thought about getting into the pool to swim any laps.
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But I am an athlete. I can dig deep and pull through and it’ll all be fine. Right?
When the starting gun went off, I shuffled into the water with the rest of the women in my age group. Some took off swimming front crawl as hard as they possibly could. I tried to wait until most of the faster swimmers went ahead of me, allowing for some space to open up. But as I started my stroke, I felt like I couldn’t get a breath. I flipped over onto my back and backstroked, but got caught in some seaweed and kept getting pulled under.
And then I panicked.
I was hardly moving but I really wanted to finish. Stroked a few more times on my back, but then a jetski went by and washed water over my face and it was in that moment that I knew I had a decision to make. Do I tough it out and struggle through and hope that I calm down enough for me to at least make an attempt at finishing the swim? Or do I give up right now?
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I raised my hand to the lifeguard in a kayak across the lake from me. I gave up.
As I sat in the kayak, I felt the tears welling up that I hadn’t at least gutted it out enough to finish. It was the first race I had never finished before, and I just felt awful about it.
What is it about failure that makes us so emotionally debilitated? Why did calling for help make me feel so disappointed in myself, when it was definitely the right decision to make in a situation when I could have seriously injured myself or even drowned?
Failure sucks. Really, it’s a sucky feeling to put a lot of work into something, devote time and energy and emotional space to achieve a goal, and then not be able to perform. This is so true with yoga as well. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve toppled over in frustration while trying to hold Scorpion, when other yoginis will make it look like the most effortless pose they’ve ever done. Makes me want to throw a yoga block at someone
But I have to remind myself that failure is sometimes what I need to poke me out the door in the morning. The joy of finishing, of completing, of putting in a significant amount of work for something and attaining that goal? It’s immeasurable. And the greatest failures can often lead to the greatest successes. We just have to look beyond the immediacy of the failure and toward what we’re reaching.
When I went home after the triathlon and parked myself on my couch reliving the rest of the race, I started to wonder what it would be like to actually finish. I took out my computer and looked up fall triathlons. I printed out a swim training program that I only had to do once a week. Though I was still hurting from giving up on myself when I knew I was a better athlete than I had displayed, I felt better about making plans to get after that triathlon again. It was this failure that will nudge me to the success that I was looking for when I signed up for the race in the first place. And in this case, I don’t think failure is all that bad of an outcome.
How do you guys deal with failure when life has totally smacked you in the face?