Monday, July 13, 2015

Recovering From Failure

How to Get Back on Track After Disappointing Yourself

We love to point fingers.  Blaming others for our failures is the rule rather than the exception.  Bad showing in an easy class?  Blame the trainer.  Blame the horse. Blame the judge.  Blame the weather.  Blame washing your lucky socks.

We also like to pretend we're so terribly upset over our perceived failure because someone else is being harmed by it.  Blame the trainer.  Blame the horse.  Blame your family.  Blame the tack maker whose product you just shamed.

If we're honest (are we ever?), the only one harmed by our failure one.  Unless the experience was a qualifying round for the Olympics (as if!) and our failure means that the team goes with the alternate, who is a seven-year-old girl on a pony that can't find a lead on a circle, we're the bottom line.  Top line and bottom line.  We are they.

So let's start with getting over ourselves.
Little kids fail constantly.
It takes an adult to teach them to
be disappointed in themselves for it.

We set high goals and believe there's a huge, gold-plated Must welded to them.  When we don't meet our goals, we get all sad and mopey and down on ourselves. We sell our horse, our tack, our children.  We go into mourning.  We get all silly and stupid and unbearable.  And for what?

Whatever it was that we failed at, something else will always come along as an alternative. Okay.  That doesn't apply to base jumping with a chute that we forgot to pack.  But on the whole, barring life-or-death choices, it's all small stuff that we won't even remember six months from now.  Five years from now we won't remember who we were today, let alone what the major disappointments in our fleeting moments were.

By now some of you are really angry that I seem to be belittling your angst.  That's okay.  Go be angry.  Some of you truly get a kick out of wallowing in self-hatred, and I'm not here to slow your roll.  That's for your therapist to address.  But trust me when I say, you're burning daylight.  You're losing days (and sleep) over something that all the anguish you can muster won't change.

What will be open to change is your future behavior.  Start by letting go of whatever just happened.  So, you disappointed yourself.  Dissect (briefly and efficiently) the event and figure out where, exactly, you went awry.  If you can't figure it out, chalk it up to randomness and move on.  If you can find the source of the problem, created a plan for not making that mistake again.  If you need more training in a certain area, plan to find it.  If your horse needs a different job or more work on a particular skill, make the necessary changes.  If your lucky socks have lost their mojo, go find something else that works for you.

Move outside the problem for a bit.  Find something to obsess over that has nothing to do with this particular disappointment.  I've been feeling disappointed that I haven't been able to get my sick horses completely rehabbed.  But I totally get that I'm not in control of this.  Sure, it would be lovely if the weather cooperated, but it hasn't.  It would be great if the horses responded more quickly to treatment, but they didn't.  And damn, would it be fine if I didn't keep getting older!
There should be food. here.

I've been lucky.  My daughter and her kids discovered Fitbit (that's a wireless pedometer, for those who have been living in a cave on Borneo for the past three years) and thanks to their "challenges" (you can network with friends who have Fitbits and compare progress), I've been too busy obsessing on the number of steps, miles, and floors I travel each day.  I don't have the energy for more than one obsession, so this did the trick of getting me focused on something apart from the horses.

And I'll admit here since I know none of them follow my blog that I blew them all away this weekend because we were haying.  That only happens three times a summer, and they'll never guess that I don't normally walk 10 miles per day.  Suckers!  But it was nice to be reminded that I do normally walk more than 5 miles a day doing farm chores, so there's good reason for the feeling that I'm aging faster than I'd like.  I'm tired! 

Let sleeping failures lie and go forth and fail anew!  Every new challenge is a new opportunity to face down failure, get over your need to hate yourself for it, and find a way to get on with your life in a more productive mode.

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