Thursday, November 4, 2010

Getting Up Gracefully

One of my most embarrassing moments (and there are many) occurred at IKEA. I was there with my boyfriend at the time. We were heading down the stairs. He was a few steps in front of me when the cute (but clunky) shoes I was wearing caused me to stumble and fall. I fell fabulously down several stairs before grabbing on to Shaun’s leg to break my fall. He turned and looked down at me, apparently unaware of the scene I had just caused.

By this point, people on the stairs had stopped. Some were concerned; others were holding their laughter until they knew I was okay. And, I was. I quickly jumped up, laughed it off and said something about “those darn shoes.”

A physical fall is relatively easy to overcome, but a real fall — a failed relationship, a firing, a divorce, a bankruptcy or foreclosure, an illness or a death can be devastating. Those are falls that can’t be laughed off with a throw-away comment or a quick regaining of composure.

So how do you get back up after taking a demoralizing fall?

First, you feel it. It is not cowardly or weak to cry or get angry or sulk around depressed. In fact, it’s the smartest and strongest thing you can do. Suppressing emotion is not the same as dealing with emotion. Refusing to acknowledge what you are feeling doesn’t make it go away or make you feel it any less. Burying emotion down deep inside of you makes them grow and fester. Eventually they erupt, usually in some unexpected and destructive way. As a coach friend of mine says, “The only way to get through it is to go through it.”

Once you begin to feel a little better, once the heart has had its say, turn it over to the head. That’s right, put on your thinking cap. Ask a few critical questions.
  • What can I learn from this?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • What will I do differently the next time around?
If you learn something from the experience then it is just that — an experience — and not a failure. When people bring up your so-called failure, you can educate them with what you have learned. If you choose to address them at all, some people just aren’t worth the time and the aggravation. Keep your head up and keep moving.

Finally, recognize that you are in good company. The most successful people, from athletes to entrepreneurs to musicians, have all failed and in many times failed gloriously. It isn’t the failure that defines them but the success that came after those ‘learning experiences’.

They came back smarter, stronger and more sure of themselves. And you will too.


Cheryl Gowin said...

Winston Churchill failed sixth grade. He was subsequently defeated in every election for public office until he became Prime Minister at the age of 62.

I wonder if I would have continued against so many falls?

Lose the Excuses said...

I guess that's why one of his most famous quotes is "Never, never, never, never give up."

Your question is a good one. I think many people would have given up. I think Churchill's philosophy can be summed up in another quote of his, "Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”

I think a lot of us would have lost our enthusiasm long before the age of 62!