Existential Psychology

Embrace Falls

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If you spend a season at the ski mountain you’ll notice that a lot of beginner and intermediate skiers judge their days by how many times they fall. If they didn’t fall at all it was a ‘great’ day. If they only fell a little it was a ‘good’ day. If they fell a lot it was a ‘bad’ day. The mental arithmetic is that falling equals skiing poorly and not falling equals skiing well.

We can use the above flawed thinking as a metaphor for pretty much any human endeavor. At the heart of it all is a deep seated fear of failure, where coming up short of the hoped for outcome is tantamount to death and where any and all visible ‘falls’ are considered to be one and the same thing as coming up short.

It’s too bad that people have this attitude instilled into them, usually from a very early age, because they’re kept from exploring that all important edge where real progress happens. When my young niece proudly told me she hadn’t fallen one time during the day I gave her props and then reminded her that it’s really good to fall because if you’re falling it means you’re trying really hard and it means you’re challenging yourself. It means you’re not staying within the boundaries of what you already know how to do perfectly but instead bravely reaching out towards bigger and better things.

If we want to get really good at anything in life we have to retrain our brains, we have to embrace falls rather than shy away from them. We have to realize that until we’ve reached the stage of mastery, and even then really, as long as we’re trying our best and staying safe falling is not ‘bad’ it’s ‘good’ because it’s proof we’re challenging ourselves, proof we’re exploring our edges. We’re not staying complacent within the boundaries we, someone else, or society at large has set for us.

If you’ve ever wondered why some skiers seem to stay at the intermediate level forever while others improve rapidly it’s because the first set equates falling with ‘bad’ and not falling with ‘good’ while the second set doesn’t. We can apply this rule to any endeavor. What’s important to remember is that as beginners we don’t know anything so we’ve got to stay safe and look to people who have already mastered what we’re trying to do for advice and feedback. And as we get more comfortable and move into that intermediate level we’ve got to find our edges and have the courage to explore them.

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