16 Life Lessons I Learned From Failing
It’s taken me a long time to be okay with failure. When I say okay, I mean not have a meltdown over it. I’m not completely comfortable with failing and making mistakes, but I’m at the place where failure doesn’t destroy me, and I’m able to learn from it. However, I still have a long way to go before failure doesn’t bother me at all.
I know there are many positives to failing and trying to avoid or prevent them ultimately isn’t helpful and usually doesn’t work. I had a fear of failure and sometimes that fear prevented me from taking chances and doing the things I wanted to do just because I might make a mistake or face rejection.
I’ve learned you’ve got to go through the failure-fire and get to the outside in order to learn the lessons that failing has to give. As mental toughness coach Dr. Rob Bell says, “Failing teaches us more than winning ever does; the biggest lesson that it teaches us is: It’s not about the setback, it’s about the comeback!”
I’ve had small failures like not being able to give up sugar and massive failures such as nearly losing my house a few times. I’ve had failed relationships, made terrible mistakes that impacted the lives of others, and I’ve failed myself.
But with all my failures, I have not only grown, but I’ve also learned a whole lot. I AM better for failing, and if I can share what I’ve learned from failure, then maybe other people can learn something without having to endure some of the pain and disappointment I had to go through.
Failure does so many things. It builds character, creates opportunity (you know that old phrase “When one door closes, another window opens?” that is failure at work), and it teaches you perseverance.
When you fail, it may feel like death, but in truth what it is doing is motivating you and encouraging you to explore other options.
Failure can be a great teacher if you’re open to its lessons and know how to bounce back.
Here are 18 lessons I’ve learned from failure.
I learned persistence.
If you give up after every mistake, misstep, or fail, then you never make any progress. Just because something didn’t go the way you wanted it to go, doesn’t mean that if you make an adjustment or try another method, it won’t work. Successful people keep trying, no matter how devastated they may feel, they know they have to keep at it if they’re going to get anywhere.
You get insight from failure.
Sometimes it takes failing at something to really understand it and ourselves. If everything was easy and took no effort, how would we learn? There are times when you have to fail to see things clearly.
Failure gives me the feedback I need.
I’m not great at criticism or any non-praise kind of notes, but when I fail, it’s like exploratory surgery—it shows me things that I didn’t know and may not have been ready to hear. If I see my mistakes for myself, I get the message I need directly. When I try again, I’m not starting from square one, I’m slightly further ahead than I was when I started.
I learned about my priorities.
Oh, there’s nothing like truly messing up to learn what’s important to you. If something is worth fighting for, then you’re going to have to have the strength to keep failing until you get it right. Failure helps me understand what’s crucial to my well-being..
You can’t avoid failure.
Failure is constant and if it wants you to experience it, it will find you when you’re least suspecting it. Life would be boring if we never failed and we’d stagnate if we stayed safe and exactly the same. Don’t run from failure, put yourself in its path and that way you’ll be better able to handle the consequences. Failure isn’t the worst, doing nothing at all is.
Fear of failure + perfectionism = procrastination.
I have perfectionist issues, so if I knew I wouldn’t win—I’d concede, and if I could tell that a project or something wasn’t going to end up perfectly, I would quit. If I face failure head on, I’m able to finish what I start without fearing the worst.
Failure helped me to zero in on what I want.
Once you realize that you’re going to have to repeat an action that was unsuccessful, you weigh its importance to you. If you want it, failure will help solidify that desire for you.
I got stronger from failing.
The more you fail, the better you get at it and the less fear it can inspire in you. I used to hate being rejected when I pitched an article. Since I’ve become more comfortable with failure, I’ve found that when I get rejected, it doesn’t have the sting it once had. I’m able to put myself out there more often.
Many times, I was responsible for my own failure.
It’s easy to blame a failure on bad luck or someone else, but much of the time the reason for the failure was lack of preparedness or overestimating one’s ability. Sometimes the timing isn’t right, or my decision-making ability was off. Failure helps me be honest with myself and gives me an opportunity to improve.
Failure is something we all experience, no matter how perfect our lives might be or look. We’re all in the failure boat together. Being sensitive to what other people are going through and doing what I can to help them, makes me a better person.
I learned not to take ‘no’ for an answer.
No doesn’t always mean “no way,” “absolutely not,” or “never in a million years.” It could mean, “This isn’t quite right, can you work on it,” or “try again later,” or a million other responses. Acceptance and success are numbers games, and oftentimes, it’s not giving up that garners the biggest rewards.
Failure encouraged me to think creatively.
When you try to do something and it doesn’t succeed, you sometimes have to change the way you come at it. You must change your perspective and the way you originally tried it. Once you flip it, you may find an entirely new (and hopefully better way) to make your idea work.
You get nothing from not trying.
If you don’t take an action, you will not fail; but on the other hand, you also won’t succeed. It may be safer to not try but nothing is ever gained from playing it too safe. I saw that even more than a fear of failure, I had a fear of success. Would I be able to handle the changes that success would bring me? I needed to face my fears by taking action, not by sitting on the sidelines complaining and feeling sorry for myself.
Having a sense of humor helps neutralize failing.
Being able to see the humor in any situation—especially one where you might feel humiliated or embarrassed is crucial. If you can laugh at yourself when you fail, it will make you better able to deal with it. Laughter is a great neutralizer of failure.
Failing can teach you who your real friends are.
Everybody wants to be around a winner—you never know if some of their magic will rub off on you or if they’ll be able to use their connections to help you. However, when you fail, it can put some people off, especially those who equate failure with complications. The people who remain supportive and by your side—even during the bad times—are the kind of friends you want.
I learned that everything wasn’t over just because I failed.
Failure can sometimes feel momentous and like nothing will ever be good or wonderful in your life. But as time goes by and you pick yourself up and brush yourself off, you realize that not only are you still standing, you’re now fully energized to try again. Staying positive helps you to regroup after a failure.
Failure ultimately increased my feelings of self-worth, self-acceptance, and self-awareness.
You grow as a person when you fail, and it teaches you that you are worthy regardless. You realize your limitations and the ways in which you are limitless. Every time you get up and try again, you get a little more confident and you strengthen your belief in yourself. Life coach, Treva Brandon Scharf says, “Failures teach you valuable lessons about self-respect, self-worth, and honoring your highest good. Failures make you stronger, smarter, and more resilient.”
Some failures aren’t failures at all.
Sometimes when you’re in the moment, you think that something is a failure but then after some time has gone by, you realize that failure was really a success. Founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls, Paige Arnot-Fenn, says in regards to what you can learn from failure, “In retrospect, you may look back at what you thought was a failure and realize that it was a blessing in disguise. Whether you were passed up for the promotion, did not get the job offer or missed the deadline for the launch, you learn that as Winston Churchill said failure is not fatal and being resilient and getting back up and trying again is really what matters in life.”
Failures are going to happen, and I’ve learned that it’s better to accept and learn from them than to ignore them or try to wish them away. When you fail, it can be a helpful thing if you have the right attitude and lean into your failures.
What lessons have you learned from failing?