Sometimes, changing our definition of success can be the difference between a really great experience, and a totally crappy one, but it takes courage to do that.
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During the Fitness and Yoga retreat I went on in Iceland in September 2018, we all went on a whale watch. We were so excited to see Dolphins and Humpback Whales and Minke Whales, and any other whales that might happen to swim by. We paid our $110, we took our Dramamine (because it was a very wavey day) and loaded our clothing-layered bodies into thermal, water proof coveralls. We were ready.
As the boat pulled out of the harbor, we gathered on the top deck, giddy with anticipation. The sun was steadily shining, which was a rarity during the week we were there. Because we were warm in our 842 layers, it was lovely standing on the deck. We laughed and talked and got to know each other better. We were going on a whale watch!
I was talking to Jacqui, and she said, “I sure hope we see whales!”
“Of course we’ll see whales!” I said confidently.
She punched me in the arm. “DON’T JINX IT!” I felt guilty for a minute, then stopped.
“I’m not jinxing it. I’m….” I paused for dramatic effect, “MANIFESTING IT!”
“Ooooooooooo!” Jacqui and her sister looked at each other, impressed with my comeback. They turned their attention back towards the sea, eyes scanning the surface, now on board with manifesting whales!
3 hours later, as the harbor came back into view, I walked back from my viewing spot on the bow of the ship to find my companions slumped down on the benches on the back deck of the ship.
“Well that was stupid.” one of them grumped.
“Not one whale.” another groused.
“and I barfed 3 times.” a third moaned.
They were right. It was more of a WAVE watch than a WHALE watch, and I was a little disappointed myself. Dani, one of our retreat leaders joined us on the deck.
“What a gorgeous day to be out on the water” she mused cheerfully.
“DANI….we didn’t see ONE whale. Not ONE!”
“Yeah. What a waste!”
“Sure. But it was a beautifully sunny day, the birds were gliding alongside our ship all day, we had wonderful friends to laugh and get to know, and we’re IN ICELAND!” she smiled, and looked towards the skyline of Reykjavik. “What a wonderful day this has been.”
I looked at my fellow retreaters. One rolled her eyes. Another snickered as Dani stood there, happy as a cat with a tuna can, and I realized something. Dani had the guts to change her expectations about the day. We were all basing a happy day on just seeing whales, but mother nature had different plans for us. We were letting it ruin our day, and Dani was in a blissful state. Maybe there was something to that.
How often do we let our expectations of a situation ruin the experience. If we just had the courage to look at the good in the situation, we would often be filled with delight instead of disappointed and dejected. You can’t win ‘em all. When will we learn that??
Our team loses the game, and our night is ruined. We fail to see that we had a blast bonding with our friends, an exciting time cheering on a great team, and some delicious snacks. To me, that’s success. Sure, our team didn’t win, and that would have been nice, but why let it ruin our day. You can’t win ‘em all, so let’s celebrate the good in the day.
Our kids don’t get into the program they were so looking forward to. Yes, it’s a bummer. We love them and want them to be happy, but you can’t win ‘em all, so let’s celebrate that they found something they like, and work to get better so they have a chance next time!
Failure is a gift. It sucks to unwrap, but we can learn and grow so much more from it. Sometimes we need to be ready to chance our definition of success and look at the good. If we don’t, all we’re doing is ruining our own day, and that’s just silly!