Several times a year, I teach a course called Fundamentals, the first of five 3-day, in-person, experiential workshops that train participants in the method and model known as Co-Active Coaching.

Coaching is a particular way of communicating that involves deep listening, asking questions, lots of curiosity, and other skills that most people believe should come naturally and easily. However, for the majority of people coming through the door, they don’t. They are high-level, complex skills that must be learned and practiced and practiced some more.

By the middle of day 2, there is inevitably some frustration, some self-judgement, some despair from the participants, who become aware that these are not skills that can be mastered in a weekend. One of the ways we mitigate this reaction is to pass out oversized nametag stickers with the word FAIL in big red letters, surrounded by festive images of balloons and streamers. We lighten, normalize and encourage the celebration of failure as the best and truly only way to learn and grow.

Life is a series of failures and recoveries, both in the outer world and certainly in the inner. On the spiritual path, sometimes reaching greater depths of consciousness and awareness require an almost moment-by-moment process of failing: forgetting ourselves and our true nature and reaching for ego, and then recovering back to self once we realize we have slipped away.

This process can involve immense frustration, self-judgement and impatience (“Why don’t I know better yet? When will I get there?”). We can also choose instead to have these daily failures elicit self-compassion, tenderness, and celebration.

What is your relationship with failure?