When You Fail

February 19, 2016

Photo courtesy Gerd Altmann

I did something stupid this week. There was no way I could blame anyone else, no way I could weasel out of responsibility for it, or avoid looking my failure straight in the eye. Boy, was it painful. My insides churned with embarrassment, I was disappointed in myself, and it set me back on one of my goals big time. (No, I’m not going to tell you what it was.)

But you know what? I survived. Plus, I realized that my worst-case scenario had just happened, and it wasn’t the end of the world. What a gift! I can (and I will) come back from it.

Into every happy life, some failure must fall. If you have goals, especially big, ambitious ones, sooner or later you will fail. That’s just being human. No one ever succeeds at what they set out to do 100% of the time. As J.K. Rowling said, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.”

So what can you learn from failure? How can you learn from it? Here are three ways to bounce back from failure:

1. Be courageous enough to think about your failure. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen, or try to twist a failure into a success. Can you figure out what caused your failure? What might you have done differently? In reflecting on my failure, I came up with several small things that came together to contribute to it—one of which was I that ignored my intuition and kept pushing forward when I should have stopped.

2. Get feedback from others. I know this is hard. My ego stomps its feet and storms off when I try this, and I’m not very good at it, but it does help. After my failure this week, I talked things over with someone, and she started me thinking about what I should have done differently (see point number one).

3. Make a plan for what you’ll do next. This will depend on the type and extent of your failure. Will you continue on with your goal, change directions, or stop altogether? I will continue with my goal, but take a step back to bolster some areas that need attention before moving forward.

And, if failure is as painful to you as it is to me, here is one more, all-important tip:

Fail more often. Try new things and different approaches. “Practice” failing. (I know. I don’t want to do it either.) And remember, failure isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you. What would be worse would be not to try at all.

What have you learned from your failures?

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  1. ((((HUGS))))

    Failure doesn't define us. The failure was the situation, the circumstance and our part in it, but not us. What does define us is how we respond to it and whether we learn from it or not.

  2. Laure--Thanks for the hugs! I just read a quote on Instagram: "You are more than your mistakes"--even though our mistakes and failures are part of us, they don't have to define us.

  3. Thank you for this post. I've been putting myself out there recently and along with some fun success comes my vulnerabilitiy and some self criticism. It is true, that if we don't take risks, we have fewer chances for failure. But the rewards of new risks and adventures are wonderful for personal evolution and for the soul, and just plain enjoyment of life...

  4. Rita--It's uncomfortable outside the comfort zone, isn't it?! But worth it, ultimately, I think. I hope your new endeavors are helping you grow and making you happy.

  5. Dear Kathy - I know how you are feeling friend...have had several failures these past few weeks that disturb me too. Yes the best thing we can do is pick ourselves up and move forward. I never think something is a mistake unless we do not learn from it. Keep keeping on dear one. Hugs!

  6. Debbie--Exactly--it's only a failure if you don't learn from it. I'll keep going if you will!