When we think of the story of Icarus, who passed too close to the sun, we remember his epic fall back to earth. The advice of his father, Daedalus, resonates in our heads as we foresee all too clearly what his fate will be. We wish he had just listened instead of letting his ambition override his good judgment. 

But, as Jack Gilbert simply states, "Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew." He flew, soaring over the Earth, giddy with joy and fascination as he conquered flight. He followed his father out of Labyrinth of Crete, and probably would have ended his journey safely with his father had he heeded the advice. But he didn't, and while his fate was most tragic, two main concepts arise from this story that have roots in coaching and behavior change.

1. Advice - "Eat your vegetables." "Exercise more and eat less." "Don't smoke." We hear myriad advice on a daily basis, grounded in fact and proven to work. Why don't we follow it? Sometimes we even balk when advice is thrust upon us, wanting to do the opposite of what a well-meaning friend or health professional tell us. Instead, we must figure out if we are in fact ready to change, and move forward from there. Behavior change does not revolve around good advice, but rather it stems from a deep-seated desire for improved wellness. We might not exactly know how to get there, but we can use our inner strengths, past successes, and vision for the future to help us along our path. 

2. Correction - Margaret Moore, CEO of Wellcoaches®, suggests a tweak to a turn of phrase - "trial and error" becomes "trial and correction." Each of us has had experiences where we gave it our all and it didn't work, despite the fact that we were very motivated. But instead of feeling like we struck out, we can see this as an insight into future attempts. It didn't work out this time, but now I know what doesn't work so that next time I can better prepare! Although Icarus only had one shot at his goal, we might have several. We can see what happened as failure, or we can rephrase and see it as a learning experience. 

The rest of Gilbert's fantastic poem is below:

Failing and Flying

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It's the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was 
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars 
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say 
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.

Gilbert allows us to upend the typical perspective of a well-known myth which allows us to see our own personal "myths" in a different light.