When Things Go Sideways

March 3, 2009 | 26 Comments »

failureI was going to call this post “When Things Go Wrong,” but I didn’t want to add any more power to “wrong” than it already gets from us!

And honestly, I’m finding “wrong” harder and harder to believe in as time goes on. 

This topic is on my mind, though, after reading Laura’s brilliantly honest post on “Failing Wildly” where she shares her fear and disappointment in not filling up a new program she created.

We’ve all been there, right? 

Whether it’s that our date didn’t call back, we didn’t get the job offer, or the crackerjack investment goes bust … we’ve all had those experiences where we feel like a big fat failure.

But …

… what if …

… it wasn’t a failure?

What if … whatever we’re looking at … isn’t really something gone wrong?  But instead is a perfect unfolding of our path, taking us exactly where we most want to be?

If that were the case, we’d look at those “failures” quite a bit differently.

Instead they wouldn’t be mistakes or mishaps or disasters or failures; rather they would be much more neutral.  They might even be interesting; they might pique our curiousity rather than trigger our angst.  In fact, if we really believed they weren’t failures, we might even appreciate where they steer us, huh?

I say this because the more time I have to look back on my own “failures,” the more I realize they aren’t.  They weren’t.  They couldn’t be!

That divorce was just what we both needed.  Getting fired before I even showed up for the record store job – turns out that was perfect, too.  And how much less would I have learned had I not struggled with my crackhead neighbor?  (I officially use that a term of endearment now.)

Martha Beck teaches a technique where you look at something fabulous in your life (present or past), and trace it back to each of the key turning points that allowed it to come to fruition.  She asks you to follow the success backward until you get to something “awful” – a negative experience of some sort.

You don’t have to trace back too many successes to a “failure” to realize that those “failures” are anything but.  (Reminds me of this quote from Soichiro Honda: “Success is 99% failure.”)

Now, this doesn’t mean I’m at peace with every thing that seems to not be going my way.  (I call it “going sideways” on me.) 

But this personal perspective does allow me to find some wiggle room so I don’t get locked down on the “failure” vibe.  The easier and lighter and more appreciative we can be of these events, the quicker we find our way to life’s satisfactions and fullfilments.

So last week as one in three of my prospective customers couldn’t buy a copy of Art of Self Love, I can now ask myself, “What if that weren’t a failure?”  Or I can consider, “How might that be perfect?”  “What’s the gift in it?” 

The answers to those questions could fill up a whole ‘nuther post!

My point being, please ease up on yourself.  You’re not doing anything wrong; you’re not screwing up.  That’s impossible.

You’re on your perfectly unfolding path and can never step off of it.  That’s the beauty of our setup here. 

Having said all that, I know there are lots of other helpful and valuable perspectives on “failure” and I’d love you to share them here!  What works for you in re-thinking this potentially charged topic?

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26 Responses to “ When Things Go Sideways ”

  1. Very interesting topic, Jeannette. For many, many years I did my utmost to be perfect in every aspect of life and there was absolutely no room for failures (= doing something wrong!). Of course I did fail from time to time, and I was SO hard on myself afterwards.

    Now I know better – today failing is allowed and often even welcomed into my life – only I don’t call it failing any more, I call it learning instead! So I learn what I can from every “failure” and then I try again, using my new experience.

    And in the rare ocasions where I feel a bit “wrong” about a failure I remind myself that “every successfull person has made a lot of failures on his/her way to success” 🙂

  2. …. I actually think I like this one:

    Failure is the way to success!

    … yep, it’s good, I’ll soon find an occasion to use it 🙂

  3. Sarah Lulu says:

    I totally believe what you are saying …in fact I just wrote a blog about making 17 mistakes a day on PURPOSE.

    My biggest so called mistakes have always taken me somewhere much more amazing that I could have dreamt up.

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience here, Pernille. I know many will relate to it!

    It reminds me of a client who was recently advised by a friend that what he most needed in life was a “big failure.” ha ha Something that he could go through and survive so that he didn’t worry about playing it so safe any more – because “we all need a good failure under our belts.” ha!

  5. Oh, Sarah, we were saying the same thing at almost the same time, I see!

    Yes, I like the thought of making mistakes “on purpose” – talk about taking the negative “charge” off it!

    Thanks for reiterating the power of so-called mistakes, how they can take us to even more amazing places we’d have dreamed of ourselves. 🙂

  6. MsNikki says:

    I was talking to a dear friend about this very topic today! I told him that I couldn’t believe that I stayed in a working environment antithetical to my beliefs and values for so damn long! My eclectic, independent,and eccentric Aquarian nature finally got the best of me and rebelled against Gitmo. Instead of calling myself an epic loser with good hair, I acknowleged the experience and added that I loved and accepted myself anyway.C’est tout! Accepting the negative experience lessens the power of it.

  7. Ain’t that the truth, Ms Nikki! (That accepting it lessens the negative power of it.)

    And what a powerful way to accept it – to love and accept yourself regardless! If you were my client I would be very proud of us both for your self-love progress!

    Well, I’m STILL proud of you and I am SO grateful that you shared this here. Many will draw from it!

    Thanks, Ms Nikki! 🙂

  8. “Whatever it is, it’s just a habit and can be changed.”

    Thanks for saying that, Nat! It’s important for us to remember how much say we have in how we perceive and respond to the events in our lives!

    And you know I agree that we’re all perfect already, all the time, and that the situations around us reflect that perfection. Even when it might not seem that way. Maybe, ESPECIALLY when it might not seem that way.

    Thanks for reading and for contributing to the conversation, my friend! Much appreciated. 🙂

  9. Lori says:

    I needed this post, thank you. 🙂

  10. Nat Couropmitree says:

    Most of the time when we call something a failure, we’re judging that that something isn’t perfect as it is. And really since everything is just a reflection, we’re judging ourselves and are saying that we’re not perfect as is.

    Well, that’s not true. We are ALL perfect as is.

    But it is important to notice your tendencies. When something doesn’t show up the way you wanted it to, do you reach for the negative vibe or stay neutral and reach for the next vibe up? Whichever it is, it’s just a habit and can be changed.

    When I put out a new program and it doesn’t fill, I like to think that I am ahead of time – people weren’t ready for my program yet 🙂

  11. Caitlin says:

    Every time something ‘goes sideways’ for me I really try to see it as feedback that I need to do something differently. Instead of ‘that didn’t work, I’m a hopeless, big, fat failure’ 🙂 I try to think ‘what do I need to change or do differently to make that work?’ or ‘want can I do instead of that thing that didn’t work?’.

    I’m only human though, doesn’t always make me feel better, but the more I practice it the better it gets.

  12. Well done, Caitlin. Instead of getting caught up in “what’s wrong,” to see it from a more empowering perspective makes all the vibrational difference, doesn’t it?

    In fact, it often takes me to the question of what was I vibrating and checking in on whether I want to shift that vibration. The answer isn’t always what I might think!

    And Lori, I’m glad this post was of some help. 🙂

    Thanks for reading and for posting, both of you!

  13. Janette says:

    Wow, this opened up some really significant thoughts for me!!

    Long ago I realised that some apparent failures in my life were paths to amazing opportunities. As a young performer I got sacked during rehearsals (having just cut my long hair all off to make the director happy!) – but while it was intensely painful at the time, it enabled me to get my first ever TV gig. I figured out then that when one door slams in my face, a better one opens. Great!

    So the big, identifiable, so-called failures haven’t really troubled me deeply, beyond the immediate rip-off-the-band-aid ‘ouch’ of them. Therefore, I wondered why I got such an emotional “hit” off this post. And I learned something new.

    I do have moments in my past where I made a choice based on fear and lived to regret it. THOSE are the moments I’ve held onto as past “failures”.

    For example, just as my career as a freelance corporate writer in Melbourne was about to take off, I got scared about the money and took a full-time admin job. Up until this moment I’ve beat myself up about putting this huge detour into my life.

    I now realise that the same thing applies – that those so-called “failures” I’ve been holding onto ALSO led to amazing outcomes and were part of a perfect path.

    For example, that decision to take the admin job eventually led, via some circuitous paths, to an opportunity to write speeches for a federal politician!

    What a great opportunity to shift perspective yet again – thanks Jeannette, you rock as ever! 🙂

  14. Janette, I got boose bumps reading your post!! When you said, “those so-called ‘failures’ I’ve been holding onto ALSO led to amazing outcomes and were part of a perfect path” … I thought isn’t it amazing how it’s IMPOSSIBLE for us to step off of our perfect path?

    I think when we really get glimpses of that truth it’s incredibly reassuring – but for most of us, myself included, it’s not necessarily a 24/7 knowing.

    But with comments like yours it helps us remember that truth. THANK YOU, Janette!!

  15. Missy B says:

    I’m currently suffering from a large “failure” in my head. One that nearly took my life in November, but instead left me with a broken back to name just one of 8 bones broken. But this blog also ties in with your e-zine that flowed in to my inbox today. When riding my motorbike, thoughts of what it would be like to crash used to creep in to my head. And guess what – I crashed ! And lived to tell the tale luckily. The sun was shining on me that day that’s for sure. I find myself though, and hence this post, trying to make sense of it. Trying to find the reason as to why it happened. Was it so I could meet the man of my dreams (not yet), strengthen friendships (ongoing), love myself (learning), realise that I CAN cope (not sure yet) and numerous other things that pop in to my mind from time to ;time. Maybe the reason for this sideways slide won’t show itself for many years to come. Or maybe it just is…and that’s the end of it ? And maybe I’ve a little too much time on my hand and am thinking too much. LOL ! Who knows, but thanks for the timely reminders yet again.

  16. Ian Farmer says:

    Its all too easy to slip into self doubt when “it did not go as planned”. Its very British (I’m a Brit living in the US)to always see the glass as half empty. I have a little motto when working with clients “don’t tell me what we can’t do, I only want to work on things we can do”. When I lead a team (usually on an interim basis http://tinyurl.com/dbktbe ) and everyone tends to get the dirty washing out I hit them with another old mantra – “come to me with solutions not problems”. These are old nuggets but truisms, in the downturn (which I have decided not to participate in) it is all to easy to get down. Good for Laura Neff to get so open and honest and confront her issue http://is.gd/lD3P . We all need to turn such “courage” to positive energy and get out there and sell our cotton socks off with positive messages and attitudes.

  17. MissyB, you hit on the one that I often go to myself: that’s the thought that I might not be able to see the perfection of this for many years to come.

    And with that thought it often comes much sooner, doesn’t it?

    Sending beautiful thoughts your way for coping, learning, loving, healing and growing. Easy for me to see at least some of the good news in this – it brought you here today!! 🙂

    Much love, my friend.

  18. Ian, you’re making me laugh with “sell our cotton socks off” .. ha! Never heard that before – I love it!

    Thanks for showing us a powerful example, my friend. After all, if a BRIT can do it, surely WE can!! hee hee

    Actually, I’m really joking with that because I didn’t know Brits have a tendency to see the half empty perspective. In fact, I might keep not knowing that, since I have a handful of British clients!

    Thanks for posting, Ian – I always learn something from you!

  19. Tammy says:

    Thank you, this was very timely. I had an experience last night that seems to be the opposite of what I have been manifesting. To say I was disappointed is a HUGE understatement.
    I am now anxious to see how this will surprise me by heading me in the exact right direction. Meanwhile, remembering that I am not in charge of the hows, so who am I to judge the magic of our univers?

  20. Oooh, good one to remember, Tammy!! “I am not in charge of the hows.”

    Experiencing one of those “disappointments” of manifesting is a great time to remember what we REALLY wanted (which always boils down to something like being happy or feeling good, right?) and that opens up a whole slew of doors for Universe to bring what you wanted through the door you weren’t looking at.

    I love when that happens!

    And I know it takes strength and courage to see it that way sometimes.

    You go, girl!!

  21. MaryK says:

    Hi Jeannette!

    The thing that popped out at me when reading this post (and your most recent newsletter which I thought was pure genius!) was that we always have a choice and can always choose what we think, and also what we think about a situation.

    When we consciously choose our thoughts and feelings, we are helping the Universe out in bringing us those things we desire. But even if sometimes things don’t work out exactly as we planned or if something happens that we didn’t expect, we can still choose to view the situation in a positive light! Easier said than done, I know… 🙂

    I was at a workshop last summer and we did the following exercise: We were matched up with partners, and first we were supposed to tell our partner about our childhood and tell them how awful it was. And most people had a really easy time with this! But then we were instructed to tell our partners how wonderful our childhoods were… and we were all able to do this as well! And it was amazing to see that the same events, the same situations, can be interpreted in either a negative way or a positive way, depending on your choice.

    Sometimes you have to look a little deeper or a little longer to find the silver lining in a situation, but I think if you look hard enough you can usually find it! If not now, then definitely in hindsight.

    Great post as always! Btw, I think your latest newsletter deserves a blog post of its own as well:)

    -Mary

  22. Mary, I like your workshop better than the one I went to.

    They had us tell our “sad story” (to an unresponsive and unsympathetic partner) over and over and over again, until we got sick of telling them. lol

    Actually, it was kind of entertaining how almost everyone DID finally get tired of their sad story.

    But we never got to tell a happy version, which I think would have been very powerful, as you experienced!

    I gotta tell you, Mary, it’s a true pleasure hearing from the Self Help Goddess herself!! Thanks for chiming in and for the kind words about Tuesday’s ezine. 🙂

    Much love to you! 🙂

  23. Lori says:

    Since reading this and keeping it in mind after a spurt of self loathing, I have sold three items from my online shop (the last of which had been waiting quite some time to be bought), and got a request for commission to sell one of my necklaces in a museum shop gallery. 🙂

  24. Ha! Lori, you rock!!

    And oh my gosh, I just looked at your latest blog post … so does your JEWELRY!!!

    WOW!!!!!!

    Never seen anything like this!!

    http://tabmade.blogspot.com/

    I am wanting “magic beans” … I’ll follow links to see if I can buy online …

  25. PS, I guarantee, Lori, these beans are magic for me!!!! hee hee

    I can’t wait till it gets here! woo hoo!

  26. Lori says:

    You are a sweety!! I seen ‘good vibe coach’ on the paypal invoice before I seen your comment here and was like “Oh my goodness! I know who that is! *grin*” hahaha
    Thank you!

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