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Failing is Certain. Choose Gracefully.

I recently had the opportunity to visit one of my oldest friends. We’re two completely different people, yet we possess a number of similarities, which is probably why we’ve maintained our friendship for so long. We’ve both gone through a number of hard times, a number of struggles, and a number of failures with various aspects of our lives. Along with those struggles and failures, we’ve both also experienced countless joys and moments of pleasure and success. We’re both in a place right not where our focus is on improving ourselves. We’re devoted to finding out who we truly are and following God’s path for our lives. As we were catching up, talking, and laughing with each other, she looks at me and says, “Meg, this is the first time in a long time where I feel like you’re just really living life. You’re enjoying life. I don’t think you’ve ever done that before.” She also boosted my confidence a little, as she always does, and went on to say, “You have so much to give the world. You’ve never realized your worth, but you may be starting to. I’m excited for you.” I too commented on her uplifted spirit and felt that overall, she seemed much more at peace and content in her mindset. The daily strength she exhibits is inspirational.

I completed my practicum for my Psy.D. program not long ago, and I had an outstanding supervisor. One concept he introduced early on as a result of my behavior was the art of failing gracefully. I failed to remind him to put a patient’s appointment down in his scheduler, which was normally one of my assets. I responded of course with something positive that would possibly make him and myself feel better about the situation. He then explained to me the ability to fail gracefully; to fail in some sort of attractive, elegant, respectful, dignified way. He told me I demonstrated that skill perfectly and if he had to assume something about me, it would be that I’ve practiced that knack before. That sort of became our thing throughout the rest of my practicum; if you’re going to fail, make sure it’s gracefully.

The more this little quote was mentioned throughout those two months of my practicum, either between my supervisor and me or during a session with a patient, the more I thought about what it actually meant. I began reminiscing on different failures that I’ve had, big and small. Like failing to hit only four homeruns my senior year to gain the state record, failing to make a game-point serve, developing an eating disorder, being in an abusive relationship for far too long, losing friendships, getting a speeding ticket, becoming distant with family, and even things such as leaving my headlights on all day while at work. When my supervisor assumed I had practice with this skill, he was right. When a situation presents itself to us, we have the ability, or the choice to react or to respond. When we choose to react, we are acting directly in the moment with our feelings and emotion. It’s a direct reply to the situation, which is usually in some ungraceful manner. Contrastingly, when we respond to a situation we typically briefly assess and evaluate aspects of the situation that allow us to act more appropriately, or more gracefully. For example, with a small failure like leaving my headlights on, I could have easily reacted in the moment and gotten angry at the situation, yelled some, maybe said a cuss word or two. However, I responded to the situation. I took a breath, realized and accepted it was a careless mistake, and called someone with jumper cables so the failure could be fixed rather than dwelled upon. Failing with grace.

There are instances of course, where as humans we innately react to situations. Though, in general I’ve seemed to be able to respond more rather than react in failing situations. This learned skill; this ability of failing gracefully, failing with respect and poise has developed me into the person I am today. It has shaped my character and changed my mentality. It’s part of the reason I’m finally actually living and enjoying life, why I have so much to offer the world, and why I continue to have little successes, even in the face of failure. Failing is inevitable, but we have a choice in how we fail.