What would you do if you believed you could not fail?

This should be an uplifting post, right? Something soaring and beautiful about following your dreams. Or a parable about the unforseen success someone built after taking a [insert mildly negative, but judgemental adjective here] and out-of-character risk. This should be the Streisand belting the molto ritardando reprise chorus of “Don’t Rain On My Parade.” I think where I am is much closer to taking a deep breath before ripping  the bandage off, or finally looking in the mirror after that beating. For me failure is one heck of a Bogeyman and no amount of Oprah-interview triumph-over-loss stories seems able to get me to my answer to that question.

I’m sure some iteration of this query has been an ice-breaker/team builder/spiritual journaling prompt at some station stop in your life. I encountered it (more than a hundred times over) when I read admissions folders for a private school. We phrased it “…knewyou could not fail?” And the repetitive, eye-rollingly predictable results were all world peace, hunger, cancer. Thoughtful kids these.

Today I posed the question to myself and I used ‘believe’ because I think it is a more potent verb. And I actually asked myself, “Who  would you be…?” I am finally old enough to know a few things (a very few, and mostly about myself), and I find that knowing does little to deter (or impel) my actions. Knowledge is all about practical decisions for me. I know that I could get up tomorrow, not go to work, get on a plane and set about fulfilling my dream of being a citizen of the world with adorable urban apartments in multiple cities for convenient globe-trotting. I know am resilient, smart, and creative and could reach my goal if my passion for it lived long enough. I also know it would take long time. I might age out of that dream’s utility. I also know that I don’t like to be that far away from my family for long periods so I won’t pursue that wild idea. But believing is a whole different ball of wax.

To believe is to imbue yourself with power, make a divine path (or crusade…) of your project or goal or dream. Believing you cannot fail is taking that silly, out-of-character risk. Believing requires that you amend the question: “What would you do if you believed you could not fail, and would thus rewrite every hardship as a critical step to your ultimate goal?”

I am getting a little hung up on semantics. I am stalling. The question, no matter your word choice, is one of those “Look in your heart and tell me what you want” commands. So what do I want to do? Who do I want to be? And here’s where it all sort of falls apart for me. I don’t want to a nicely labeled box like Attorney or Secretary of State, or Chef. I want to be as happy as I can bear it every moment that I possibly can. I want to be healthy and able-bodied and feel good in my own flesh. I want to be someone who I admire and respect. I want to be inclusive and generous and moral and good to others and someone who improves a moment with her spirit and presence. I want to make money enough to not have to think about it. I want to do all of the above and still have time to read and learn and live and pursue activities that bring me pleasure simply for pleasure’s sake.

The good news is I’m flexible. I’m willing to let a professional path surprise me. If I can create the life that I want doing X job than X job is okay by me. The not-as-yet good news is that I am left with another, perhaps harder question: With all the options what to I hope for?

If I believed I could not fail, I would slip my practical self a roofie and…and…Since I don’t know, I guess I don’t believe, its own failure in this context.  I guess I need to go back a step and start with believing that I can believe.


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