I seem to have a bit of a thing for metaphors lately. Particularly metaphors of exploration. This week, I found myself challenged in ways that I haven’t been previously on several fronts that I currently lack sufficient expertise. Any one challenge might have been daunting. Encountering all of them at once was downright intimidating. That put me in mind of a movie that I once loved. In that, I began to find some answers.
We are told that failure is an essential part of growth. It is something that we need to accept. If we are not failing often enough and hard enough, then we aren’t making progress. While it is wonderful to be able to make that argument intellectually, it is another thing entirely to respond to it personally. Our obsession with the negative isn’t about embracing failure; it’s about avoiding it. Perfectionism doesn’t reflect an obsession with excellence so much as an intolerance for mistakes. Our brains actively work to avoid situations where there is the possibility of failure, and discourages taking action that might result in pain. Actually embracing failure is directly contrary to that outcome, which means that we’ve got our work cut out for us.
Personal growth and development is not a cakewalk. Whether you have chosen the path—or had it inflicted upon you—embarking on change is complicated, stressful, angst-ridden and uncomfortable. It is the liminal journey come to life, although it doesn’t make it any easier to accept or process. For all the theoretical merits of changing, you are going to feel adrift, challenged and very likely incompetent. The desire to retreat to a safe and familiar place is going to be tempting. Nonetheless, there are strategies to make it through to the other side.
I write a lot. That is an unavoidable truth. I’ve been putting my thoughts on this site on a mostly-weekly basis for several years now. While having an audience is valuable—and I’m grateful for the feedback that I do receive from readers—in many ways the person that I am most writing for is myself. I write to think, and I think to learn. Sometimes what I have to say surprises me as much as it might stimulate thought for someone else. And that is entirely the point.
Our brains are wonderful things. And so our our smartphones. We now have a smartphone in our pocket, and previously unimagined information at our fingertips. The challenge is knowing what to do with all that power. Or, more to the point, recognizing how the easy access to information makes us think about decisions and choices, and think in general. The more we take for granted about information that’s available, the less we take the time to recognize and work through what we already know.
Think about where you are. What you know. What you can do. And how you can do that. What was your journey? Was it planned? Was it an accident? Was it somewhere in between those two points? We start off life thinking that the most important question we have to answer is what we want to do when we grow up. Eventually, if we are doing it right, we figure out that the answer isn’t as clear, as coherent or even as relevant as we might actually hope.