It was my turn. I faced the mat as the instructor gave me an encouraging nod. I ran forward a few feet and threw myself headfirst onto the mat, tucking my neck down as I awkwardly rolled over in a somersault-like maneuver.
The instructor gave me a few pointers and I got back in line. I was going to need a lot more practice.
It was my first day of Parkour. I’d signed up for the class because I wanted to get better at body and spatial awareness. And besides, it looked totally fun and I was intrigued.
That first lesson was all about how to tuck and roll. We were going to be doing a lot of falling and it was important to know how to keep ourselves safe.
In other words, we were planning for failure.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but failure is actually very necessary to success. Of course it’s hard to practice. Who wants to fail? There are tons of us out there who avoid trying new things out of a fear of failure.
What will people say? How will I look? They’ll know I’m not perfect! They’ll find out I’m a fraud.
In physical activities, knowing what to do when things go wrong is about survival. Things like knowing how to fall in Parkour and gymnastics (without breaking your neck). Being able to hold your breath under water if you surf.
Part of being really good at something is knowing what to do when it goes wrong. It’s why failing is so important. We get to practice it from the beginning. It helps us hone our skills and prepare better for when things do (inevitably) go wrong. We learn how to manage that failure; how to learn from it; and where to focus our energy so over time, we fail less (or simply fail better).
Fail With Intent & Grace
Failing isn’t just necessary in sports. It crosses all boundaries and can be a wonderful asset in all areas of life. Having failed at something means having valuable experience that can be leveraged.
Here are 5 reasons why I believe failing is necessary (and awesome):
– We learn. Knowing what doesn’t work provides us really valuable information.
– We gain strength. Trite adages about character-building aside, experiencing pain, sadness & frustration is part of the human experience. We really do grow stronger and develop valuable skills to get through difficult times when we fail.
– We inspire. Have you ever been inspired by someone overcoming the odds and ultimately succeeding? I think it’s safe to say we all have at some point in our lives. We don’t need to experience a catastrophic event to inspire. Every time others see us fail, get up, and move on, we inspire and teach them they can do it, too.
– We build confidence. Sure, our egos take a hit at the initial impact of failure. But after awhile, we learn that it wasn’t the end of the world, we didn’t lose all our friends and that people still like us.
– We thrive. As we build up our quiver of tools to deal with the falls and failures we experience, we start to combine our growing knowledge, strength, and confidence to keep going.
And interestingly, the activities, sports and endeavors I do that have been particularly challenging at first? You know, the ones I failed at the most often? These are the ones that mean the most to me when I succeed. They’re the ones I’m most proud of.
So go ahead, embrace your failures. Step into them with curiosity and courage. You will learn, grow, inspire and thrive. Not despite your failures, but because of them.
I’m not jumping from rooftop to rooftop just yet. My Parkour skills are still in its infancy, but I am falling a lot more gracefully when trail running, and that feels pretty good.
What about you? How do you embrace failure? What are some lessons and insights you’ve learned?
Amy Christensen is a certified life coach with a passion for adventure and helping women discover and tap into their own adventurous spirits. Based in Boulder, CO, her company, Expand Outdoors, focuses on helping women get outside literally and metaphorically: to step outside their comfort zones, take more risks (the healthy kind) and live a richer, more fulfilling, active, adventurous life. Subscribe to Expand Outdoors and receive a free guide to the 10 essential elements for everyday adventure.