Becoming stronger through failure

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ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D.  — Failing the Air Force physical training test: my greatest fear since joining the military.

It is embarrassing to admit recently that fear came to fruition, but what I have learned through that failure has become one of my greatest strengths.

After failing, I definitely felt like a weak person for not meeting the standards — I had not only failed myself but also failed my unit.

To be honest, it seemed as if the whole world had just caved in on me.

With emotions running high and an immensely guilty conscience, I knew that now I was putting my chances of being promoted in jeopardy. Just when the weight of shame began to overwhelm me, my leadership and fellow Airmen began to pick me back up.

They might not know it, but through their words of encouragement and support, I was able to regain perspective and feel confident that my world had not been destroyed and everything would be ok. Yes, it was unacceptable to fail — but it didn’t mean my life was ruined.

I went home feeling a bit better but also thought long and hard about what had just happened. That’s when I began to remember what I learned about resiliency through my training as an Airman. I started to see the Comprehensive Airman Fitness program in action and how each pillar was actually being utilized in this situation.

The physical pillar was obvious; it was what spurred the current state of affairs. Both the mental and social pillar came in the form of my leadership and co-workers helping me regain a positive outlook and focus on the goal of passing my next test.

Specifically though, it was the spiritual pillar that was the most resourceful in overcoming this personal adversity. I began to see how even though we all might look a bit different on the outside; we all share the same feelings inside – happiness, sadness, love and fear.

After listening to my fellow Airmen explain how they too struggle with challenges in their own lives, I gained a sense of connection with them that helped me find peace and newfound strength in my own spirituality.

Taking what I’ve learned from the spiritual pillar, I decided I should revisit a book I own regarding spiritual philosophies and reread some chapters to help revitalize my sense of purpose and meaning of life. It helped reemphasize that my negative thoughts did not have to dictate my reality – that the outcome of this test was completely in my control and I already had all of the tools to succeed.

I worked on visualizing myself remaining calm and focused while running and passing the test. I ran two miles every other day, adding sprints to finish each workout. My leadership administered weekly mock PT tests where I even wore the jersey during the run portion to aid in my visualization process. I was feeling confident, knowing that my hard work was going to pay off.

I recently took the test and passed with flying colors. Though I didn’t earn an “Excellent” rating of 90 points or above, I came very close and am now highly motivated to achieve that score on my next test.

This situation was a blessing in disguise. I learned to appreciate the obstacles we all encounter in life.  I think we can grow from these challenges, and if not for the trials and tribulations, then what is there to learn? How can one grow?

We don’t go through life doing things alone; we all need each other to succeed.  The support of my fellow Airmen combined with the resiliency training I’ve received renewed my self-confidence and enabled me to rise from this temporary defeat, victorious in more ways than one.