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Embrace your failures, celebrate your growth.

The startup that is you and aging with a healthy mindset.

Do you ever feel that you want to turn back the clock and re-live a part of your life? Or several parts? Do you ever feel shame or even guilt when you think back to some situations because you thought you could have done better, handled things better, been nicer to someone, been more assertive, or whatever it may be? Many of the people I encounter every day tell me their stories – and it seems the majority focus on ‘negative memories’. Failures, embarrassments, you name it. It is something called a ‘negativity bias’, a mechanism we developed to aid in our survival. Useful surely in some situations, but nowadays?

But what happens when we shift our perspective? Nah, you may say. It was a bad time, ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’ et cetera. My wise counselor once told me this: Take a step back and tell yourself that those moments are neither good nor bad. They simply are. It was a strange concept to me and looking at my failures was one of the most difficult things I had to do. I had to break through a wall of self-judgment and overcoming my inner critic (certainly the harshest critics of all!). Reflecting on my failures eventually turned into celebrating them.

Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like if I had never stumbled in life. I remember moments when I thought, oh my, it would have been so nice if I never had to get entangled with sleeping pills, if I had never stayed in a bad relationship for too long, if I had never been depressed or afraid. I recall moments of intense shame and anger at myself and the world for the obstacles I had to overcome. Moments when I was unsure whether I was going to snap in half.

At times I imagined a different life story in my mind. One that runs smoothly, without obstacles, without challenges, without emotional upheaval. It is also a story without growth, without lessons, or successes emerging out of the ‘hero’s trials.’ Every good story needs a hero, and you are the hero of yours But the hero also goes through trials and tribulations to finally be triumphant.

If you like Star Trek, maybe you have watched Star Trek V – The Final Frontier. Spock’s brother, Sybock, relieves people of their personal pain. When it’s Captain Kirk’s turn to relinquish his pain, Kirk refuses. Kirk explains that his personal pain makes him who he is. It is his identity, the Kirk he has become.

How does all this relate to a start-up, you ask? Surely, we are not businesses that have to work hard to turn a profit in some distant future. You are right in that we are not business enterprises. But the analogy to how a start-up becomes successful is a very useful one to help you take your new perspective, gain some distance from your intense feelings about your failures and start seeing them as treasures that shape you into the person you are and are still becoming. When you start out in life, you learn how to be a functional human in your society and social group by trial and error, but also by guidance. You may not always take that guidance and still test the waters yourself. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes not. But you file away the information and adjust your course. This is exactly what you keep doing throughout your life. Every failure is to be celebrated because the measure by which you examine it is the lessons you extract from them. The more you can do that, the more you will gain insight in how to do things better next time.

Nobody is born perfect (although some certainly lay claim to that…), everyone has a learning curve. If you hide your failures in embarrassment, you cannot make progress. Have empathy for yourself. You are figuring out life – some are just much further ahead than you are, and some are way behind. Both directions have great support to offer, including you for others who may find great comfort and solace in your hero’s story.

My memories are my treasure chest. My life, my magical moments, my moments of success, of pain, of triumph, of loss. They are my personal pain turned strength through acceptance and empathy. You too have a treasure chest. Give yourself credit for having the courage to take a closer look, and unpack the riches hidden within.

XOXO from Katharina 😊

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