“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.” Michelangelo
Crunching through the leaves with my boys last night, one of them said that he would like to try all the sports there are. He asked what sports I played in high school and I was embarassed to tell him, "None. I was afraid I wouldn't be any good so I didn't try any."
I was concerned that my answer might deter him from trying, but instead, he felt sad for me. I felt sad for me too.
Fear of failure has kept me from trying many things, which sounds funny for someone who likes to be somewhat public. I am pondering doing something that I've never done before, and the fear of failure keeps wrapping itself around my feet. It's also forcing me to analyze what success and failure really mean.
Maybe you are hesitant to try new things for the same reason, so let's process this together. Here's what I've come up with:
Success cannot be defined without knowing our motivation. If I am motivated by public recognition or attaining some sort of victory, then I may do my best and still not be a success. If I am motivated by something within me, like the joy of a challenge or an opportunity to use the gifts God has given me, then I am already a success, regardless of the outcome.
Failure wears many faces. If I begin a project and treat everybody miserably while completing it, I should not consider myself successful. Sacrificing personal integrity and relationships doth not a success make. (I made that up...feel free to use it.) Only going for the low-hanging fruit does not necessarily make one a success either, as Michaelangelo's quote alludes to. Lack of tangible success doesn't mean we've failed, but that we've stretched ourselves, and that is always a win.
Play to the right audience. Every arena has its own community to cheer you on, and my possible endeavor is no exception. It's easy to get caught up in the cliques and drama. When I trained for the triathlon in 2010, half the fun was talking shop with other "athletes" and feeling like I was part of something bigger. When I didn't do the triathlon I signed up for this past summer, I could have felt like a failure except that my audience was not the athletic community. It was God, and in His eyes, I know I chose wisely.
I think that is what it all boils down to....why do we want to do what we want to do. If I'm trying to feel like a big fish in a small pond, I need to seriously consider my next step. If I want to experience more of life and try something new, then I should march on. I don't want to wake up on my last day knowing that I shrunk back in fear of failure without ever really trying.
How about you? With this perspective of success and failure, what might you do that you haven't done before? Where have you set your bar?