Years ago, I remember the first time I heard the phrase, “progress not perfection.” I can wholeheartedly say, I didn’t really understand at the time what that meant. I was an ambitious 20-something wanting to leave my mark and climb my way up the ladder as quickly as I could and without apology. Back then, it seemed even the slightest misstep felt like the world was ending.
The quest for perfection was daunting and exhausting.
Fast-forward almost two decades later, while chatting with one of my dearest friends from across the planet, it all made sense.
We were talking about life, much like we do each week – parenting, marriage, career. We have both been through major changes in our lives over the course of the last few years, particularly as our careers are concerned. If I said navigating through leaving a stable corporate position and venturing out on my own has been easy, I would be lying. And doing it from across the world away from my support network has certainly added another element of difficulty that I didn’t even anticipate on the front-end.
But despite the changes and life tossing a monkey wrench into the equation from time to time, we have both managed to keep things in perspective. We laughed as we agreed that neither of us have a clue how any of this may play out and surprisingly, we are at peace with it.
We thought about how the younger versions of ourselves might react – facing uncertainty, potential failure, learning to just trust the process – it would have been an absolute disaster. Yet, here we are, 40-something professional women realizing that if everything goes sour and shit hits the fan, so be it. We will be okay.
We shrug our shoulders and simply say – okay, I got this!
One of my biggest fears when I was younger was this idea of failure – in relationships, in my career, financially. That fear was the driving force behind always doing something or chasing the next big thing – a promotion, a title, another volunteer opportunity. I was constantly striving for something and doing so on the backdrop that I couldn’t and wouldn’t allow myself to fail. And while I don’t regret those things because it led to success and building the life I have today, the difference between then and now is that experience and age has given me the wisdom to approach failure with a calming sense of peace as opposed to fear dictating my decisions and actions.
Failure doesn’t scare me nor does it define me.
If you never try, you can’t fail. And if you never fail, you can’t grow. The fear of failing doesn’t need to be a game stopper, it’s simply a part of life, it’s part of success. And anyone who wants to see you fail or finds pleasure when you do, isn’t someone you should bring along for the journey.
While we laughed among ourselves that being at peace with failure must mean we are adults, the reality is that living life from a place of trust and surrender is a lot more rewarding than trying to control every outcome, as though we have any control over things anyway. That’s just not how it works.
Think about it for a minute – living life from a place where you have no attachment to the outcome.
No attachment to what title you may or may not have. No attachment to what your relationship status may or may not be. No attachment to the number in your bank account, the number of followers on your social media, or the number of ‘likes’ on your last photo. No attachment to this unrealistic idea that life is going to be perfect.
Instead, living from a place of “whatever happens, happens” and truly believing that everything will be okay. Sounds like freedom, right? An escape from the unnecessary exhaustion of fear-based living!
The reality is that you have the capacity to accept whatever is waiting on the other end of failure, without expectation and without attachment. Sometimes it is just a bit easier to arrive at with a little life experience under your belt.
I remember when a girlfriend of mine was going through a divorce after years of trying to make her marriage work. She had given everything. We used to joke that if her husband was a cat, he had used up twelve lives. Part of her hesitation, which none of us understood at the time, was that she was attached to what everyone else would think. The weight of judgement kept her trying in a failing marriage that we could all see was over long before the papers were signed.
Eventually she let go of caring about what anyone else thought or said about the decisions she needed to make for her own life, and it allowed her the freedom to truly live again.
Our experiences, be it the end of a marriage or a career change, are all opportunities to gain perspective, eventually embracing life from a place of peace and trust, as opposed to control and fear.
And for two girlfriends catching up by phone from thousands of miles away on opposite ends of the world, realizing we had arrived at that place in our own lives was one of those, “we are actually adults” moments.
Cheers to a new week and allowing perspective and life experience to guide your decisions instead of clinging to the fear of failing or trying to control the outcome.