Fail Your Way to Your Success

I’m caught in self-doubt. Anyone who has ever put themselves out there, done a new, more difficult, or challenging course has had that moment during their taper where their inner critic, that voice in their heads that judges them harshly, reminding them of all the mistakes, goofs, and blunders they’ve encounter over their training. 

The biggest mistake I made? On the longest training run, which was just last week, I failed to utilize that time on course to try all kinds of different foods (because, honestly, you want to have ‘choices’ in the culinary department when attempting 100 miles). I’m not gonna lie to you, I’m going to have self-doubt anyway.  I’m going to wonder if I did enough training, but at least I have my training log to reference.  But, during my run, when I felt my stomach go off around mile 30, instead of slowing down, focusing on my heart rate, and just trying some different foods and being ok with whatever happened, I stuck with what worked. Or, more truthfully…what didn’t.  “The foods I was eating at least weren’t making me throw up,” I thought to myself.  But honestly, the goal was not to run a 55 mile training run without throwing up. The goal was to accomplish the distance, try new foods and learn.  

I simply didn’t want to take the risk. To have things go from bad to worse.

So, I watched my time instead of my heart rate, ran through aid stations when I probably should’ve taken a seat for five minutes and tried a new food. I should’ve tried different things besides peanut butter and jelly, because that old standby was not working. I should not have an Ensure shake every single hour of those 11 hours of training when I knew that my stomach wasn’t a big fan of them at 10 miles in. Then why did I stick with what wasn’t working?  I didn’t want to try something and have it be worse.

One of the biggest obstacles that we face with any challenge is how we deal with making a mistake. Most of us will stick with something that we know isn’t working simply because it has been tried and tested and worked at a time before we changed what we were doing. The reason for this is simple:

Setbacks don’t feel good.

The shame of goofing up and answering a question wrong in front of others, the embarrassment of reaching for something out of your comfort zone and falling on your face…in the mud…while it’s raining. The self-judgment that goes along with publicly making a mistake or messing up in front of others, or even just ourselves, when we put ourselves out there doing anything and it doesn’t go well… It simply sucks. But, if we’re honest (which can be a tall order when wanting to make a change), are we really saving ourselves emotional pain by not putting ourselves out there? Avoiding change, allowing our goals to sit in the dark corners of our minds, unrealized, comes with a price. A price to what we pay for trying. That price is uncomfortability.

It is true that when you go after the things that are most important to you and you fall a little bit short it feels emotionally difficult. It can rob you of your confidence for a minute, or longer and cause you to self-question. But here’s a secret:

No one feels avoids uncomfortability when they don’t try either.

Your inner critic tries to tell you that if you just leave things the way they are that you will be better off. But, if you’re honest with yourself, aren’t you already feeling regret, or shame, or disappointment for not going after the things you want or trying to make the changes in your life that could lead you to greater success? Most of the time we’re already feeling regret, self-judgment, and fear of being stagnant in our lives.  The pain of allowing setbacks to permanently stop you from attempting what matters most to you can linger like a chronic, life-threatening disease that takes its victim only after years of ‘playing it safe’ has silenced their heart.  

I have one long run left to do next week. It’s a night run. I probably should’ve done more of them, but I’m going to make this one count. I’m going to practice with all kinds of food that might help me reach my goal of completing 100 miles. I’m sure some food won’t work out, and there is a very good chance I’ll be suffering from the mistakes I make along that training run. But a consistent effort that keeps my emotional heart beating is better than a flat line before I even walk on the course. So, I choose the uncomfortability that comes from the attempt, rather than apathy.

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