Time to Experiment with Failure

I’ve been using The Pattern app recently as a suggestion from a friend. It’s usually spot on about things that have come up in my personal and professional life. I’ve come to a point in my life where I’m working to prioritize happiness and joy so that I can be a good steward over the blessings I receive and a present, engaged member of my family. If you’ve been following me for a while, you may have read about some of my struggles with depression. While those struggles are typically circumstantial, those mental blocks do get in the way of me leading in the way I envision. 

The latter part of this year has been a mental struggle with determining my alignment with my current job and my community. I instruct a course that teaches students how to design their college experience based on their needs, desires, and interests. Yet, here I am not doing that. Going through the motions and routines can be dull for me. Knowing this, I have been doing a lot of self-reflection about my energy levels, my mood, my habits, and even my interests. The interesting thing is I’ve read the books and watched the videos to encourage and inspire me. One thing I have to accept is my environment – because of family obligations, up and leaving would be a huge disruptor. There are goals that we have and I want us to be successful, I’m working to figure out how.

I recently received an update from The Pattern app that lit a fire in me and it helped me to reframe my current situation. One of today’s updates was about experimentation. It read, “This is a great time to trust out-of-the-box ideas and follow an unconventional route to success… During this time, you may ask yourself, ‘How can I experiment with nontraditional approaches in my life?’” 

It’s like my prayers have been answered. Well, sort of. I’ll explain. Unconventional approaches require unconventional mindsets and thought processes. I think we sometimes get caught up in the notion that there’s one job that will make us successful or one big break opportunity that will make us successful. That may be true for some people. I’m not a singer or dancer – I barely post on social media, so my unconventional approach will be intentional and purpose-filled. 

I often ask myself about my purpose. I think about why I’m here. I do a lot of things well, but I’m still trying to determine where I excel. My unconventional approach will require a change in my routine and current interactions with people around me. I resort to comfort because change can be scary. New people mean I have new emotions and personalities I will encounter. New jobs mean new cultures and new relationships. New habits require letting go of old habits. It’s easy for me to go home and just be. Don’t get me wrong, I like some people. It’s my trauma that keeps me away because the pain of disappointment or betrayal is something I want to live without.

I think often about what it would mean to be optimistic and take unconventional approaches. To transform my life and be this amazing person. I’m not talking superhuman. There are everyday people who just decided to go for something and do it well. I believe my unconventional approach to success will cause a shift that I haven’t experienced at any point in my life. My comforts are doing everything alone, not self-promoting due to a dysfunctional relationship with humility, staying under the radar because attention came with negativity, just to name a few. I’ll be discussing growth and fixed mindsets in my next workshop, and I believe this unconventional approach is a contributing factor to how we overcome a fixed mindset to lead with a growth mindset. 

Experimenting with Nontraditional Approaches

One thing that I discuss with my students in the course I instruct is how to take action trying new things. Earlier I mentioned comfort – it holds us back by not allowing us to expand our growth potential. If we constantly go with what we know, it can be challenging to grow. There is such a thing as being risk-averse – playing it safe so we don’t fail or make mistakes. I’d argue that mistakes help us to grow. Something that recently came up for me was my first semester in undergrad. I left home to attend a university. A first generation college student, three hours away from home, alone. I wasn’t the most outgoing child growing up, but I knew I had to get away. As a result of things at home, I came back home and didn’t finish my freshman year. I wasn’t given the opportunity to fail. I didn’t give myself the opportunity to fail. I conformed to make other people feel safe and happy. One hard lesson in that reflection is that by learning to play it safe and not fail, I didn’t learn what it took to learn from the situation. I was allowed to go back to comfort where it was safe and comfortable for others, but not helpful for me to reach my goals of being a college graduate. 

That situation led to other situations where I avoided risk because I didn’t know what the other side of failure looked like. Rejection hit me hard because I was entitled and things were just supposed to work out just because. 

I’m finally at the point where I’ve had disappointments but not calculated failures. Figuring out what I wanted, what my purpose is has been a lifelong pursuit. I’m terrified to try something new but my road to success depends on it. As I continue to host workshops and set out to make new connections, I have to remember to stand and not shrink. I once did a mini series on social media about doing things anyway because people are going to judge you if you do something or if you do nothing. At this point, the only thing I have to lose is my lesson in what it means to fail in order to be successful. I’m not quitting my job, but I will be redefining success to fit my goals, interests, and needs.

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