Well, I failed my Theosophy exam. I just found out last week, and I was bummed when I opened the email. After 8 months of reading, thinking and reflecting on the materials introduced in the course (and passing every quiz along the way with flying colors!) I was stunned with my final result.
After my initial disappointment, however, I decided to reach out to the course instructor and ask how I had failed. Was it the exam? The coursework over the months? What was the deciding factor? Since he had mentioned it could be a either or a combination of the two in his final email, I thought it needed some investigation.
As it turns out, I was one question off from passing. That’s not to say that I was close to 100% – far from it. I needed a passing score of 75% (or 40 correct), and I achieved just under that. I got 39 out of 53 questions correct.
The instructor considered passing me, he said, but then he reviewed which questions I got wrong and decided to hold the standard. Rightly so. As it turns out the example he gave me of a question I got wrong was glaring. It went against the core teachings of the tradition. And he said there were a few other examples that were similar, therefore showing that I failed to grasp the basic tenets of Theosophy, even if I understood some of the more nuanced pieces.
I have to admit I was shocked. Firstly, I knew the correct answer to that question, so I have no idea why I chose something else. Secondly, I passed the quizzes with 95-100% accuracy, so how could it all go so wrong?
Once my nervous system settled down a bit, I wrote him back and thanked him for upholding the standard (I agreed with that decision), and explained how I can only attribute the wrong answer to user error while taking the exam itself, because I had given the correct answer previously on a quiz, and I also knew it. I haven’t heard back from him, and don’t know if I will. And that’s ok. Because after a few more breaths, I realized something very important:
My failure was a message.
You see, I’ve had a lot on my plate this year and I haven’t always been giving things my undivided attention. Everything from physical health to spiritual health has been somewhat half-assed, just to get through. I approached my exam the same way. I put it off until the last possible weekend in which I could take it and set aside the three hours needed to complete it. But, I wasn’t free from distractions, nor was I 100% focused on the task itself. I knew it when I sat down, but the exam had become something to cross off a list, so I did.
Looking back, I can see that this has become a pattern of sorts in my life. I have been moving through things to get to the place of “being done,” rather than moving through things and being present as I went. In other words, I have been running part-time on auto-pilot, while not actually fueling my vehicle appropriately, or consulting my navigation.
In my coaching practice, I teach my clients the importance of “book-ending” their healthy solutions. It’s a tool that makes everything that much more powerful and successful. As it turns out, I have been bookending my life in the unhealthy way with a combination of distraction and pushing, to simply “get through,” which made it that much more pronounced when I tried to just get something done, and failed.
I’m glad I failed. I don’t see it as a loss, even though I paid for the course. In fact, I still have the knowledge I gained, I just don’t have the piece of paper that reflects that. And that’s ok, because it shouldn’t be about the paper. (Well, not always.) Many times, it needs to be about the process and the intangibles that are learned along the way. And while I learned many other intangibles throughout the past year (which I’m sure I’ll write about later), it was the final intangible of failure that put the past 12 months into perspective. What a gift! Because as I go into 2018, I can now be more aware of how I wish to show up in everything I do, and I can make deliberate choices from a place of empowered knowing, rather than just pushing through.