Embracing Failure: Lessons Learned from Life’s Setbacks

Feb 12, 2024 | Building a Better You

Failure is inevitable in life. Whether it’s a personal or professional setback, we all face challenges and difficulties that test our ability to survive, overcome, fight, stay motivated, keep going. Overall, test our resilience. 

At times, we may feel discouraged, frustrated or ashamed by our failures. They can make us feel that we are not good enough, or that our time and resources were wasted. We may even avoid trying new things or pursuing our goals for fear of failing again.

But what if our perspective on failure changed? What if we could see failure not as a negative outcome, but as a positive opportunity? What if our failures became stepping stones to success?

In this article, we will explore how failure can be a powerful catalyst for personal and professional growth, and how failure provides valuable insights and learning opportunities, how our relationship with failure changes and we can leverage it for success.

The Learning in Failure

Failure is often seen as the opposite of success. But in reality, failure is an essential part of success. Failure is feedback. It tells us what works and what doesn’t. It reveals our strengths and weaknesses. It shows us where we need to improve and grow.
Many successful people have experienced failure before achieving their goals. For example, Thomas Edison failed thousands of times before inventing the lightbulb. J.K. Rowling was rejected by 12 publishers before Harry Potter became a global phenomenon. Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first TV job for being “unfit for television”.

Credit: Photographer: David Livingston/Getty Images

These examples show that failure is not a sign of incompetence or lack of talent. Rather, it is an open door for courage and perseverance, to show how it doesn’t stop focused individuals. These people did not give up on their dreams because of failure. They learned from it and tried again with more knowledge and experience. And equally important, they didn’t let people in power, unable to spot their talent, deter them from achieving what they set their minds to.

Changing Your Relationship with Failure

If failure is not necessarily a bad thing, why do we fear it so much? The answer lies within the complexity of our emotions and beliefs

When we are faced with failure, what happens immediately after? It can trigger negative emotions such as anger, sadness, guilt, or shame. A critical moment arrives that tests our resilience and challenges our perception of self-worth. Trying to suppress or ignore these emotions can hinder our ability to move forward productively. We have to allow ourselves to feel them, but don’t let them define us or control our actions. Once our feelings are acknowledged, we need time to reflect on the situation and what led to the failure; recognize all the factors, the ones that depended on your actions and the ones that you had no control over. This reflection will help you identify areas where you can improve and develop strategies for avoiding similar setbacks in the future.

Emotions are a natural response to a setback, and it’s important to accept them as part of the learning process. To overcome these emotional and cognitive barriers, we need to change our relationship with failure. We need to develop a growth mindset, which is the belief that our abilities can be improved through effort and learning. A growth mindset helps us to embrace challenges, seek feedback, and persist in the face of obstacles.

We also need to reframe failure as a stepping stone to success. We need to see failure as an opportunity to learn something new, to try something different, or to discover something unexpected. We need to ask ourselves:

  • What makes me define this as a failure?
  • What were the warning signs that I may have missed? 
  • At what stage did things go wrong – idea, planning, execution? 
  • Were there external factors involved, to what extent? 
  • What is it that I need to do differently next time?

Leveraging Failure for Success

Learning from failure is not enough. We also need to leverage failure for success. We need to use the lessons we learned from failure to improve our performance and achieve our goals.

Set SMART Goals: An effective way to do this is to set SMART goals, which are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. SMART goals help us to clarify what we want to accomplish, how we will measure our progress and how we will overcome potential challenges.

  • Get Feedback: Another way to leverage failure for success is to seek feedback from people relevant to your situation. Knowledgeable individuals whose experiences add to your own. Feedback can help us to identify our strengths and areas for improvement, as well as to gain new perspectives and insights. Feedback can come from various sources, such as mentors, peers, customers or experts.
  • Try a New Approach: A third way to leverage failure for success is to experiment with different approaches and solutions. Experimentation can help us to test our assumptions, explore new possibilities and find the best fit for our goals. Experimentation can involve trying new methods, tools, strategies or partners.

In a Nutshell…

Failure is not something to be feared or avoided, it’s something to be embraced and learned from. Failure serves as a teacher, guiding us towards personal and professional growth. Moreover, it plays a pivotal role in achieving success by providing essential feedback, valuable insights, and an opportunity to move forward with a more informed perspective.

The next time you face a failure, don’t let it discourage, stop, or define you. Instead, use it as a catalyst for learning and improvement. Remember that it brings you one step closer to your ultimate goal!
Would you like for a mentor to help you see the bright side of failure? I’m Jeff Meyer, a devoted life coach and I’m here to help! Let’s connect today.

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