The Great Fail!

A year ago I turned 40! I was afraid something might fall off.  So far so good, but I’ve decided not to take any chances.

The passing of time is a strange phenomenon.  I am now closer to 60 than I am to 16 but as far as I can tell the only real difference is in ‘The Packaging’.  For the most part my internal self has remained unaffected by the passing years.  I still feel, dream and sometimes act like I’m 16.  It’s in my external self that the years have revealed themselves most dramatically. So, in an attempt to ease the disagreement between my mind and body over what 40 should look and feel like, I enlisted the help of a personal trainer.

I approached my first training session with confidence, under the delusion that I was in reasonable shape.  I’d always enjoyed exercise as much for my mental health as for my physical wellbeing. It amazes me that such a long held belief could be destroyed by the reality check of a 45 minute training session.  I didn’t vomit, although I felt like it, and I did almost cry.

At the end of my session, in a scene worthy of a ‘Biggest Loser’ grand final I attempted to do ‘push-ups’.  My trainer refused to let me do them from my knees like a lady exclaiming ‘What’s with the girlie push-ups? That is not ok!’  So I attempted 1 man style push-up and collapsed, thinking she would let me off the hook.  I was wrong.  I love my trainer.  She is kind but merciless!  Her belief in my ability far exceeds my belief in myself.  It was at this point that she started to yell ‘Come on you can do it!  I know you’ve got at least 10 push-ups in you.  Give me 10 of your best!’

I was sure I wasn’t capable of another push-up let alone ‘10 of my best’.  But I said to myself ‘Go to reserve!’  It took all of my remaining strength but I completed not just 1, 2, or 3, not even just 4, but 5 manly push-ups.  I was in shock!  I didn’t think I could do 1 push-up but I had made it halfway and was now on the home stretch.  Covered in perspiration I lowered myself down again and committed to push-up number 6.  Hovering above the floor every part of my body was shaking but I was determined to ‘push-up’, then Bam!  Instead of ‘pushing-up’ my muscles gave way and I face planted onto the floor.

My trainer was beside herself. ‘Now that was a Great Fail!  You took your body to the limits of what its currently capable of doing and then you failed! Well done! Janine, I’m not here to help you do the things you can already do.  I’m here to help you do the things you can’t do and to get to that place you have to be prepared to fail.  I expect you to fail every session!’ All of a sudden I started feeling good about my face plant and I left that session with a different perspective on 40 and failure!

The words fail and faith actually start out looking like exactly the same word and I don’t think it’s a coincidence.  To live beyond the level of our current experience and ability requires us to stretch.  The stretch is called faith and the key component of faith is a willingness to fail.  The beginning of the journey from where we are now to where we want to get to, just like the spelling of these 2 words, ‘F A I’, looks exactly the same.  Will the end result be celebrated as a great step of faith or will it be met with the disappointment of a fail?  While ever the outcome of our journeys is still unknown there are parts of our lives that will look as much like a fail as they do faith but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying.

As a recovering perfectionist failure has always been something I’ve feared and tried to avoid, but could it be that my perspective on failure has been wrong?  I’ve spent all this time pursuing perfection when all along should it be a ‘Great Fail’ that I’m aiming for, knowing that every time I choose to reach beyond the level of my current ability, face plant or otherwise, I’m closer to doing something I couldn’t do before and living a life I’ve never lived before.

So I’ve decided to view failure and turning 40 in the same way, a step in the direction of a place I’ve never been and the beginning of something amazing!  After 40 years I’ve become sure of what I know and an expert at what I’m good at.  But I’m increasingly aware there are so many things I don’t know, and an even greater number of things I’m not good at………yet! So I’m facing my fears and embracing my fails.  When was the last time you had a great fail?