Every year as I prepare to write my July post, I am naturally drawn to the topic of “Freedom.” This year I decided to write about a type of Freedom that I have had to learn to allow myself to enjoy, the Freedom to Fail. While it seems counterintuitive, without the freedom to fail one can never really succeed.
When I first got into the sport of triathlon, I would only enter Sprint distance races. To say I was not a strong swimmer would be kind, but I knew that I could survive a 450 meter swim in order to get on the bike and start my race. The next year my training buddies were all entering longer distance races, but I stuck to the short Sprints knowing that I could get through the swim. In my third season, as my buddies were training for even longer distances they all encouraged me to join them, but I was terrified. I knew I could muscle my way through a short swim, but swimming a mile or more seemed impossible. I talked to my husband about it, and his words to me were, “What have you ever REALLY tried at and failed?” This wasn’t to say that I have been a huge success at everything I have tried, but that in trying I experienced a certain measure of success that wouldn’t be possible if I had given into my fear of failure.
After that conversation, I decided to get out of my comfort zone and I entered my first Olympic distance triathlon. Still terrified of the long swim, I decided to work with a coach. One of the first things he had me do was a mental exercise where I identified things I was fearful of or uncertain about, and then turn those into positive affirmations. From those affirmations I was to come up with a mantra to use during training and racing to help me get through those fears and anxieties. I adopted a quote by Robert F. Kennedy, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” After loads of training, I went on to complete the Olympic distance race. The next season I joined my training buddies in Orlando to participate in a Half Ironman. I didn’t WIN either of those races, but I succeeded at both of them.
When I think about the things I would have missed out on if I hadn’t allowed myself the freedom to fail, I am so grateful for the wise words my husband spoke. I have made so many friends through the sport, I have learned that I am physically capable of much more than I ever imagined, and I have even become a decent swimmer. Even as I decided to open Connective Touch Therapeutic Massage in Reston, I reminded myself that in order to succeed, I had to be willing to risk failure.
As I turned the office calendar from June to July, I smiled when I saw the inspirational quote: “Comfort zones are beautiful places, but nothing ever grows there.” Author Unknown