In one session, we talked explicitly about Failure, experiences that make us hesitant to step out, to challenge, to volunteer. And we worked with a tool that helped us to identity beliefs about failure and inquire into the unconscious ways it operates & influences us. I realized failure operates on multiple levels for me. There are the micro failures, for example, the almost daily reality that I'm not accomplishing everything on the 'to do' list, which seems to provide evidence in my mind that I'm not as effective as I should be. There are the middle-level failures, the grant proposal not funded, the group meeting that doesn't go well that I always find myself thinking about on the drive home or in the shower. And, then, there are the macro failures, the big projects and initiatives focused on large scale change that don't achieve the large, stated goal which create a pit in my stomach when someone brings them up.
In the work Caitlin facilitated, I realized that there is a file cabinet in my head with 'failure' written on the front. And without thinking about it, I've been filing all kinds of experiences into it for year. The problem is that most things are filed based on ideas I learned as a child and I know are not true - that an individual directs large-scale change, that failure is rejection of me, that 'good people' are those who are busy in every minute. As an adult, I've looked at the evidence and my rational brain knows that large-scale change is unpredictable & emergent, that seeds of hope and new practices are planted and people within systems do things differently. I know that failure is necessary, particularly when doing work that is on the edge of acceptability to the status quo. And I know that my success in life comes more from my ability to reflect and pause then merely stay on the treadmill of daily tasks. Working smarter is better than merely working harder.
Beliefs and fear about failure are carried in people, in teams, in organizations. They stop problems from being addressed and enable dysfunctional operations to continue. Yet there are ways to have a shift in mind, a shift in the beliefs. As I have experience it, that shift opens up new ways of acting and being. It is the first step toward the possibility of positive change.