I was on a meeting this morning where the leader got choked up acknowledging team members. She was growing present to the fact that she always had our support, and that gave her the space she needed to rise to new levels in her own growth and business.
She mentioned that she found herself able to move through challenges and breakdowns with more freedom and ease. And she found herself resisting less and less.
In my observation, though, it wasn’t just breakdowns she wasn’t resisting anymore. She was also less resistant to hearing what others had to say in contributing their ideas to her success.
See, failure is not bad. But we have it as a matter of morality, where everything can neatly fit into our personal definitions of “good” or “bad.” We’ve been taught to judge the world around us since we were young. And we begin to assume the way we judge things is the same way others judge things. In due course, we’re surprised to find there are people in the world with different perspectives!
Because we have it as a matter of morality, we make others wrong for having a viewpoint that’s different than our own. “How could they possibly think that?”
Most of the pain you associate with failure is coming from this space of morality. You were taught to judge everything as good or bad, and you have it that failure is bad. And the pain you assign to “bad” is proportional to the intensity of your emotions.
In the intensive leadership program, I’ve been taking, I’ve been discovering that failure and success are just different sides of the same coin. Or, more accurately, breakdowns and breakthroughs are just different sides of the same coin.
When you start to see this for yourself, you’ll have less and less resistance to breakdowns. If there’s always a breakthrough on the other side of a breakdown, how could it possibly be wrong? And when you see this for yourself, though it may not be imaginable from where you’re standing, eventually, you’ll begin inviting challenges into your life.
I remember assembling a banner at a community event I was tech hosting at. The leader watched as I was making error after error and said, “I thought with all your experience being an audio / video tech, you’d know your way around a banner.”
I said, “I do, but this banner is a little different. I’m making all the mistakes upfront, so I know what to avoid next time I need to set it up.”
And from then on, setting up the banner was a breeze.
There would be less pain associated with failure if you gave up the idea that it was bad or wrong. After all, you made plenty of mistakes learning to walk, swim, or ride the bike. And more than likely, no one made fun of you (if they did, they’d just be making fun of themselves!).
Everything else in life is the same. Trying to avoid mistakes is just some version of trying to look good or avoid looking bad. There’s freedom away from any concern for what others might think of your mistakes.
Mistakes and failures aren’t good or bad. They just are. And there’s always something to be learned from them.
When it comes right down to it, everyone runs from responsibility, discomfort, commitment, and pain.
Even the seemingly fearless who run towards challenges eventually find themselves crying “uncle.” Everyone arrives at “too much” if you push them far enough.
Your heroes aren’t that much bigger than you. They’ve struggled just like you. They’ve had to conquer themselves, wrestle their excuses to the ground, take risks when they felt more like turning, running, and hiding.
I say that as if it’s a permanent condition, but it’s not. It’s a daily struggle.
The only difference between you and them is that your heroes have been just a tad bolder, a tad more audacious, a tad more direct.
Where you’ve held back, they’ve been in action. And those actions might not be as massive as you’d expect. They simply asked where you failed to ask, made requests where you were stopped, had conversations where you were too uncomfortable to communicate. That’s it.
Pedestals are pointless. Your heroes are just like you. They have worries, fears, excuses, and concerns too. And some days, most days, they don’t live up to their own standards, let alone the high standards you hold them to. You just don’t hear about it.
I think it near impossible to find an athlete who hasn’t suffered an injury.
And let’s face it – we’ve all had mishaps as children, remember it or not. It could be as innocent as a scrape on the knee, or something more consequential, like a broken bone.
I remember breaking my arm when I was six, in Japan, just before Christmas. My parents bought a Commodore 64, and I couldn’t play with it until my arm fully healed.
Though it’s possible to recover from injuries, it certainly depends on the severity.
If you lose a toe, you might not get it back. The process of recovery will still follow, but some injuries are permanent, or at the very least, far reaching.
The wrong kind of injury could end an athlete’s career. If you do physical labor, then you may end up being unable to continue in that capacity.
Injury is usually painful, sometimes shocking or traumatic, and occasionally permanent.
To that extent, I can’t make light of life transitions ushered in by injury. If you end up having to give up something you love, or your livelihood, due to injury, you will likely go through a major life transition.
Letting Go of a Dream
I grew up in Japan, but my family always returned to Canada for the summers and spent time with family.
My grandparents bought a trampoline, and it was always one of my favorite pastimes at their house in the rather remote, Barrhead, AB.
The accident I referred to in the introduction happened on this very trampoline.
Summer was only just beginning, but while bouncing and playing with my cousins, I damaged my Achilles tendon. Although I don’t remember much from that summer, I know that I spent the rest of it on crutches.
At that point, I may not have been self-aware enough to know that I wanted to become a professional athlete (baseball, soccer, or basketball).
And, I had even less awareness that this injury basically spelled the end of my career before it even started.
I did learn to walk, run, and jump again. I even participated in a lot of sports in school, especially between grade five and grade nine.
But if I pushed myself too hard, inevitably, that injury would begin to flare up again. And going past that point surely would have meant lasting damage to my Achilles.
Somewhere deep down, I think I had the sense that I would end up doing something creative in life and that I wasn’t meant for sports. But still, having to give up a dream can be challenging.
In my case, I figured it would be better to have my mobility than to risk an injury I might not be able to recover from.
Injury & Identity
In most cases, the most challenging aspect of injury is how closely it can be tied to your identity.
If you’re an athlete that loses the ability to play their sport, the shock and trauma you experience could be significant.
If you have a physical labor job, but end up with a bad back, you might end up having to develop other skills.
What’s important to remember is that your identity, contrary to popular belief, is not what you do. It’s who you are.
And who you are is written on your heart. It’s always with you, and if you’re willing to listen to it, you’ll begin to see not only who you are but also what gives you the greatest sense of fulfillment, contribution, and impact in life.
I’m not saying it’s easy to shift from one thing to another. But it is possible. You are just as resilient as anyone else, and if you commit yourself to the process, you can switch directions and even become successful.
How to Deal with Injury Related Life Transitions
Although the basics of life transitions never change, the specifics can.
There isn’t a one size fits all solution when it comes to dealing with injury.
If it’s a minor injury, then letting your body heal, and using the appropriate healing modalities, should be more than enough.
Life transitions can still stem from a small injury though, depending on what you make it mean (e.g. “I always hurt myself playing baseball, so I will never play again”).
If it’s a serious injury, then you may need to spend time in rehabilitation to recover movement or mobility.
And if it’s a semi-permanent or permanent injury, then there will be a period of mourning like anything else, in addition to acclimating to the loss of a finger, hand, limb, or otherwise.
In mourning, as I’ve shared before, what’s most critical is allowing yourself to feel whatever it is you’re feeling. By becoming present to it, acknowledging it, and not running from it, you can release it in time.
But if you try to suppress the pain and turn to addictions, the energy will be stored in your body. Dormant energies always resurface and typically at the most inopportune moments.
While mourning, it’s important to follow your heart. Journaling, meditation, and counseling can prove incredibly useful, but they are not cure-alls.
Transitions post-injury can also be challenging, especially if you end up having to change professions or find a new career to pursue.
Take it all in stride. Remember – despite this concept we refer to as “time”, which is always passing, we as humans have mastered difficult coordinated maneuvers, be it driving, dancing, playing an instrument, or otherwise.
This means with enough practice and repetition, it’s possible to teach yourself to do just about anything (within, of course, your physical limits).
Injury, Final Thoughts
Injuries can hurt. They can be shocking and traumatic.
We may end up needing to change our careers or lifestyle based on injury. And that can make life even more challenging.
But there is always the opportunity to mourn, adapt, and learn from injury, as well as the process of healing and transitions.
What injuries have you suffered? How did you deal with them?
I look forward to sharing more on life transitions, and if there’s anything you’d like me to cover, drop me a line.
Leave a comment below.
Shh… Don’t tell anyone. Only the cool kids are talking about it.