Okay, what’s a Mindfulness Nugget? If I think about something in my mindfulness practice, that’s a nugget. If I muse over a situation or a conversation, and it stokes my mindfulness practice, that’s a nugget. If it’s something – a strategy, insight – that I can share to help make someone’s life easier, their mind more free, that’s definitely a mindfulness nugget. Freedom begins in the mind.

Welcome to #1: Cultivating a Relationship with Failure.

I’m terrified of failure.

It feels like failure has stalked me my whole life – waiting in the wings when I succeed, to swoop down at the most inopportune moment to sadistically dash my hopes and dreams.

Failure – or the avoidance of failure – does funny things to the human brain.

Part of mindfulness practice is identifying those things – accepting them, moving on, and as a result, overcoming them. One of the most helpful methods that I use in my mindfulness practice is saying my feelings out loud. It sounds silly, but it usually releases tension. Saying “I feel <____> right now” helps to bring feelings out where they can be examined and explored, or just noted.

“Mini-meditation breaks” – five minutes or less of focus on the breath – also help to soothe nerves and restore lost focus. These guided meditations available for free at the Mindfulness Awareness Research Center at UCLA can help you get started if you’re new, or just feel like you need guidance.

My fear of failure comes attached to a painful inner voice, which usually says: “You’re just not good enough.” Yours may say something different. “You’re not competent,” “You’re not talented,” or “You can’t do anything right” are variations on the same theme – self-torture.

Maybe we learned it through painful lessons from our parents when we were children. Perhaps a teacher was cruel to us. Negative reactions to our performance from our peers may have played a part. Disappointment results from unrealized expectations – which may or may not have been realistic in the first place.

I have found that coping with these experiences is tough, to say the least. When you’re not “in the moment,” I have a few suggestions for after the fact:

1. It helps me to think of how far I’ve come, rather than comparing my accomplishments to those of others. Comparing apples and oranges benefits no one.

2. Ask yourself: What did I learn from this experience? After all, failure can be a very powerful learning experience. It can teach you what you can’t do, refuse to do, or even an alternate activity where you shine.

3. Be compassionate towards yourself. Be understanding. Try a self-compassion meditations like the ones here.

4. Be compassionate to others. Recognize that they have failed as well, and treat them kindly. Lend them assistance and a kind ear. We’re all in this together.

5. Dust yourself off, and try again. I know it sounds cliche – but it’s true. You’re not going to get better if you give up the first time you make a mistake.

These suggestions should help to cultivate a relationship with failure. If we all experience it at one point or another, the best thing we can do is learn how to cope with it in a healthy, productive way.