“The past does not equal the future, unless you live there.”
The years I was haunted by the fears of failure. I spent my entire adolescent life in a perilous sport based around judgment, relying on absolute precision. Skating on a ¼ inch of steel is like dancing on a string, and you can go from true artistic expression to toboggan in a matter of milliseconds. This fear built daily and caused some days to require a bit more stubbornness to giving up than others.
Fear of failure is not unique to figure skaters or athletes as a whole. Looking bad in front of people is arguably one of the most commonly dreaded outcomes. Why do you think there is so much research out there that concludes that most dread public speaking more than death? This fear of failure needs to be overcome, or it will prevent you from performing to your excellence. Reflecting early into my skating career, one reason why I made it to where I am today circles around not only my innate internal competitiveness but also the realization that I needed to, as Brene Brown states, “dare greatly.”
One such moment occurred early-on in my partnership with Kaitlyn. Performing for judges is always an anxiety-inducing experience but doing it in the middle of summer with fresh programs that have not seen the light of day further compounds it. The National team high-performance camp is always a key start date for the upcoming competitive season. This particular year Kaitlyn and I were ready to reach the next level in our performances and trained every day leading up to this camp with that mindset. Stemming from a productive summer training season, we were confident that we would show the beginnings of what our program could be. Fast forward to the end of our first performance, and we were busy brushing the snow from our costumes, tending the minor wounds, and most importantly, trying to understand what had just happened. I know Kaitlyn and I both felt these pains, but I will only speak from my thoughts. Being so focused on showing the judges the perfect thing consumed me to the point where it became debilitating during the performance. The fear of not performing the program the way that I knew we had been doing in training crept in and led me to play it safe. How did that work out? Falling twice and missing what seemed like half the choreography just trying to catch-up is a fair synopsis. You see, I let my fear of failure hold me back. I didn’t let the choreography’s energy and story build to take the performance to that next level. Moments like this showed me the power of what anxiety can do and how it can lead to paralysis if you try to control too many things, how the fear of failure and perfectionism can go hand in hand. The mindset leads to the belief that success isn’t about achieving something good but about not screwing something up along the way.
Striving for success should be something that is exciting and progresses towards an amazing destination. It was a shift in perspective that allowed me to see that the anxious feeling was not a weakness but a power. I didn’t want to extinguish the fear itself but hone it to bring the care it brought to the experience. Being fearless can lead to taking foolish risks that are unreliable in the moments when you may need it. The anxious feelings honed into one of care and courage can serve as drivers for success. Facing the fear of failure goes beyond just dealing with the problem; it is an opportunity to grow.
Until time travel exists, no one will be able to tell the future. If you worry about what the future holds can only turn into wasted energy and disappointment. You cannot control it all. By learning from past failures, planning for future successes, but focusing on the present moments, you can increase the opportunity for happiness. I am not saying that I never failed after my mindset shift. I failed a multitude of times and will continue to fail. The thing that changed and now empowers me is that I get to learn from those failures. I don’t fear failure. It excites me because it is an opportunity to grow. I now fail forward.
Taking a mindful approach and addressing only the obstacles and opportunities you have within your ability, allows the space for magic to happen. I think we all could use some magic in our lives. The fear lives within us no matter what. We are all striving for something that is greater and worth the risk. Acknowledging that fact and seeing the power it brings is empowering. I can’t wait to see all the magic that you, the reader, will bring to the world.
Looking back on the mistakes at camp, I don’t see that performance as a failure in the least, it was a gift. I see how it pushed and progressed Kaitlyn and I to the next level that we were working towards. It was the lesson I needed in order to become the athlete I am today. Society often teaches us that failure and shame go hand-in-hand, but failure is something to be excited by as long as you treat it as the learning experience and gift that it is.
If this post or my last leaves you wanting to ask more questions, please do not hesitate to reach out. You can contact me through my website www.apoje.ca.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope you were able to take some value from my experiences.