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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Failure Is Always Optional

It's amazing what one can learn - and re-learn - from an unseeming source.

For example, from a discussion I had last night with an internet troll (For a definition of one, click on this: It wasn't a one-on-one discussion, there were many of us on the board, but one thing the troll said struck me during the course of the conversation:

"I didn't take the UPCAT because I didn't think I'd make it." (Edited, as the actual statement posted was full of spelling and grammatical errors - affectionately called jejemon. UPCAT stands for the University of the Philippines' College Admissions Test, UP being the premiere state university of the country.)

The thing that suddenly shot through my mind was, this person chose to fail. He said it quite clearly in that succinct statement: he didn't think he'd make it. It was all in his head - and he didn't even try.

(Photo courtesy of

How will you ever "know" if you don't give it a shot?

I replied: "With that attitude, you won't get anywhere in life." Of course, what I meant with the word "attitude" was really his frame of mind, his way of thinking. If you approach something with the end or conclusion of already not making it, then you have failed.

To which he commented: "Last I checked, passing UPCAT was not a requirement to succeed in life."

I must have really pulled a nerve in him because his response was a classic case of missing the forest for the trees: he mistakenly assumed that I was making fun of him for not passing the UPCAT. (Something I am neither confirming nor denying, let's leave it at that.)

So I said: "I never said not passing UPCAT was a problem. It was your attitude towards taking it that I said was the problem."

This mindset of failing before you even do something is why I am convinced that failure is optional. As long as you made an effort to see how far you could go, then you've already "won", as far as I'm concerned. It's just daft and idiotic to proclaim yourself a "loser" if you don't even get in the game.

And as far as "game results" are concerned, you need it to assess yourself honestly and what areas of your life may need improvement - if it is something that needs improving, at all. If your approach is one of competition with others, that is another Pandora's Box altogether. But if you will measure yourself against what you have achieved and what you can do, then it is very useful as a gauge for personal growth.

I see this all the time when I conduct my yoga classes. There are those people who come into class, saying they want to have Madonna's body, or that they have to do a headstand because "my friend can do it, I should, too!"

And part of the education I impart to my students is: Focus on the journey, not the destination.

Life, as it is, is all twists and turns, and more chaos than order at times. There are many things you cannot control, but your attitude towards these things, that is under our control. A pose like a seated forward bend incites anxiety in a few of them, mainly because they compare themselves with someone who can place her head between her legs without any effort, and their arms can barely touch their shins. I talk to them and ask them: How would you compare yourself from the first time you first did this particular pose - which has been maybe two or three years ago?

For those who have come in on an almost daily basis, the answer is always the same: There is a definite, marked improvement, however minimal this improvement is. This is what I mean by making the journey your focus, because we are all different beings, and this is what gives us different results. No two people are ever completely alike, not even twins.

And corollary to this, those who come into class sporadically, or went to class because it is the "fad" or "hot thing to do", they more often than not find no change in their journey of body awareness, as well as mental clarity, both of which are tremendous benefits that yoga can give. (It's amazing that what I learn on the mat and how I can apply this to my life off the mat.)

It all begins in your head.

Let me amend that: It's ALL in your head. Don't let your own thoughts prevent you from becoming the person that you can still be. Harness your thoughts towards the positive: you can only go forward and upward with that frame of mind.

Choose to succeed, and you'll never fail.

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