What My ACE Personal Training Exam Taught Me About Failure.


On Friday I took my Personal Training exam.. A test I have been preparing for since March of this year. It was something I have been wanting to do for years but had kept putting off.. And looking back it was this thing called failure that was pushing me away from taking those steps towards my dream.

For as long as I can remember, failure was something I avoided.. like the plague. I wanted nothing to do with the feelings of failure, the judgement of failure, or any kind of association with it. I only participated in the things I knew I had a chance at succeeding in and never shared my vulnerabilities when it came to doing something “wrong.” I always wanted to be seen as strong, that I had my shit together and if something didn’t go my way, or I failed a test, or messed up - it went in my deep dark secret never tell anyone place.

Back in 2012, I was training to become a group fitness instructor and ACE Fitness was the program my college trained us through. After the series of tests and hiring processes for the school group fitness position, we were given the option to take the ACE group fitness test online. I went in quite confident after passing the school exam and to my surprise was given some test results I was not expecting after I hit “submit my answers” on the computer..

“I am sorry but you did not pass the exam.”

My heart sank. Knowing some of my peers had passed their tests, I never actually admitted to anyone that I had not passed mine. I was embarrassed, mortified, and felt like a fraud. It was something that stayed with me, this underlying fear taunting at me every time I thought about getting another certification.

So naturally when I decided to sign up for the personal training certification through ACE, I was extremely nervous. Not only was my past taunting me, but I knew this test was going to be even more difficult.

The night before the test, I was in a mode of serious panic. It had been so long since I had taken a test and the doubt started creeping in.

“I am not ready.”
“I am going to forget everything”  
“I am going to get in there and choke.”
“Do I even know the material?”
“Who do I think I am?”
“What if I suck as a personal trainer.. This will all be for nothing.”
“What if I fail.. again.”

“Congratulations, you passed the exam!” ....

What did I do to calm those thoughts? How was I able to walk into that exam room and put those fears aside?

Two things:

I had to learn how to take the weight off “failure” and redefine what it actually means to “fail”

Truly believing in myself. Like truly to my core believe in myself.

We put so much pressure on ourselves to avoid “failure” and that if we fail then we are either inadequate, not good enough, or we punish ourselves and do everything we can to never feel that way again. But what I have learned is that it is inevitable, we will make a choice that will lead to undesirable outcomes every single day. But we do not have to let those choices OR past experiences define us or prevent us from moving forward. We can change what it means to fail, to learn that it doesn't mean we did something wrong or shameful, we just made a decision that gave us information and we can take that information and make a different decision moving forward.

I learned that my past was not my present truth and that I did not have to be defined by a past outcome. I learned that failure didn’t have to be a scary thing, that I could not pass my test and be OKAY. I learned by saying “when I pass my test,” rather than “if I past my test,” I was able to visualize the end result I desired, I was able to manifest the kind of energy I wanted, and was able to truly believe in myself.

The night before my test, as those words of doubt started creeping up, I was able to acknowledge those fears, and set them aside. I was able to put down my books, call it a night and hold onto that voice of “when I pass my test.”

Through this entire, extremely difficult, frustrating, and beautiful process, I ultimately realized my dreams were more important than avoiding failure. That if I was going to live this amazing life and go after the deepest of my desires, then I HAD to get comfortable knowing that failure was most certainly an option. That it does not have to be scary or define me as weak, but rather a lovely, lovely process that I can grow from.

So I ask you this:

Are you letting your fear of failure hold you back from something you deeply crave? What would it feel like to redefine failure? What would it feel like to go all in on your dreams, to bet everything on yourself?