Celebrate the risk, not the result.
If you’re willing to risk failure you can’t be mad at yourself when you fail.
Note: Every Saturday morning after my weekly trampoline practice, I broadcast a new episode of My Circus Life, where I share a lesson I learned on the trampoline and how it applies to life. Today was Episode 68, and the topic was Embracing Risk.
Today in trampoline practice, I missed the landing on two consecutive front tucks. It was the first time I’ve missed 2 in a row in several weeks, and for a moment I was pretty upset about it. I was mad at myself.
Perfectionist habits die hard. Perhaps you can relate.
I’m in the phase of my skill development on this skill where I’m trying to take do it from a higher bounce and make it tighter. In my front tucks, I typically keep my arms above my head as I work up my height. As I tried to build height, that felt less stable, so I tried to incorporate my arms into my bounce, the way I typically bounce.
I made a bold move to make a change in my bounce and entry without first trying it within the protection of safety lines. Not everyone would have done that.
I went into it knowing I was risking a “failure” of landing on my ass — even though my coach would be quick to point out that it wasn’t a failure because I landed safely.
So I knew there was a risk that I might not land cleanly on my feet. And when I didn’t stick the landing, I got mad at myself.
And … it doesn’t quite work like that.
If you’re willing to embrace the risk, you’ve got to be ok with it not working out the way you want. You can’t retroactively beat yourself up because it didn’t give you the ideal result you wanted.
Well, I guess you can, but it would be counterproductive.
So I did what I do best: I called myself out on it. I shared it with my coach and my friend Derek, and we had a good laugh about it.
They could laugh with me because we’ve all been there. We want to embrace the risk as long as we have certainty about the outcome. When we take a risk and the result doesn’t match what we desire, we often get mad at ourselves.
Of course, I can see that’s long been my pattern. Not just in trampoline practice, but in almost every area of life.
And I know that I can’t have it both ways.
Because if you do that, after enough times, you will weaken your confidence and self-trust and won’t take risks anymore.
This is the Challenge in Every Decision
To be clear, this isn’t just about “Risk.” More globally, it is an issue with decisions. On some level, every decision presents a risk.
It could be a simple decision like what to order from the new restaurant or a more complex decision like which home to buy or whether to accept a job offer. Every decision presents a risk that the results won’t match what we desired or expected.
And when this happens, we often turn on ourselves. Maybe on the surface you blame others, but beneath it all, you blame your decision. You blame yourself.
We start to create a story that our decision was wrong. We tell the “I shouldn’t have done that” story.
If you’ve ever felt this way, know that you are not alone.
In over 20 years of helping people navigate some of their biggest life decisions, I’ve seen this pattern repeatedly. I’ve been guilty of it myself.
The Consequences of Blaming Ourselves
In helping others navigate thousands of decisions, and in reviewing my own patterns, I’ve learned that what keeps most people stuck in decisions is tying the decision to the outcome.
We judge our decision based on the result, as if we had equal control over both.
When we get mad at ourselves because the risk we took didn’t deliver the outcome we ideally wanted, we weaken our self-trust.
This makes us less confident going into future decisions. And before you know it, simply deciding what to order for dinner becomes a monumental event. Because you don’t trust your ability to make sound decisions.
Why we focus on the “bad decisions”
Our brains are wired to look for what we did wrong because that keeps us from repeating mistakes. And that instinct plays an important role: it keeps us physically safe.
Also, if you typically received more reminders of your “bad decisions” than of your “good decisions,” from the people around you, that’s what you habitually focus on.
Mindsets to build your decision confidence
The key to maintaining self-trust is to keep yourself out of the “I shouldn’t have done that” mindset.
First, remember these two principles:
- There are no “bad decisions” or “good decisions.” There are decisions with outcomes we like, and decisions with outcomes we don’t like as much.
- Decisions and results are separate entities.
The truth is that between the risk and the result, there are many things you don’t control. No matter how much you think you control the result, you don’t. The only thing you fully control is the decision to take the risk.
Second, try implementing these three levels of practice to help you strengthen your self-confidence in future decisions.
(1) Notice where your past decisions did pan out
I recently started a practice of reaffirming myself for decisions I made where the results match what I desired or expected at the time of the decision.
This may sound super obvious, but in my experience, most of us do not do this enough. We’re too busy looking at the results that don’t match what we desired.
From the most simple situation, like what to order from the new restaurant, to a course you enrolled in that helped you get a result you desired, notice where you made a decision that panned out as you hoped.
It sounds like this:
Oh, yes. I decided to do this thing for this reason and that’s now playing out. Good choice, Renée.
Yes, it helps to use your name. It adds to the reinforcement.
(2) Celebrate decisions that didn’t pan out
There’s another side to this too.
Can you look at a decision you made where the results did not pan out as you intended or hoped, and find something in that decision to celebrate?
To celebrate the risk when the results didn’t materialize is a harder practice.
As a default, we high achievers will seek out the lessons to be learned from the “failure” or disappointment. That makes us feel better about the things that didn’t go our way.
But celebrating when the results didn’t match your desires goes beyond what you learned from the “failure.” In fact, just because the results didn’t match your expectations or hopes doesn’t make it a failure.
Maybe the results you desired did not materialize, and with the benefit of the knowledge you gained you wouldn’t make the same decision again, but there is still much to celebrate.
Celebrate the fact that you made the decision and embraced the risk.
Today, I was able to get to this place quickly when I caught myself in the pattern of being mad at myself.
And then I took it to a new place.
(3) Celebrate the risk and take the risk again
Going one step further: can you look back at the decision and say,
even though the result didn’t match my intentions or hopes, I would make the same decision again under the same circumstances.
Even if the result you this time caused you pain — and I’m talking here about emotional pain more than physical pain — and knowing that this might happen, would you make this same decision again? Would you take the same risk?
When you are willing to do it again under the same circumstances, then you are really celebrating the decision to embrace the risk. It’s not about what you learned in your “failure”; in fact, the result is no longer relevant.
This is the point at which you detach the risk (or the decision) from the result.
And when you can do this, you set yourself up for exponential growth in your self-trust. You become more confident in making decisions because you focus your attention only on what you can control: the decision to embrace risk.