10 Lessons Failure Teaches
No one likes to fail. In fact, most people would do almost anything to avoid failure. They consider the lengths they have to resort to a fair price to pay — just so they don’t have to go through the experience of failing. But they’re missing something incredibly valuable: They’re losing out on the lessons failure teaches.
- You don’t always have to be right.
It may come as a bit of a shock to realize that you don’t always have to be right. In fact, if you think you always have to be right, you’re likely going to experience more than a few disappointments. The beauty of having failed is that it takes away some of the pressure of having to be right. You can forgive yourself for the failure and move on.
- Other approaches could work better.
Suppose you struggled and put in long hours to come up with a plan that, once executed, turned out to be an abysmal failure? Should you berate yourself for your stupidity, lack of foresight, inability to envision stumbling blocks and potential workarounds? Or, would a wiser approach be to acknowledge the hard work you’ve done and then dive into the task of looking at other approaches? It could very well be that something you initially considered, and then rejected, would work better than what you tried.
- Every failure contains a certain amount of humility.
Since everyone fails, there’s something universal about what the experience does for us. While painful, every failure helps keep us humble. If we remain bullheaded in our approach, determined to prove ourselves right no matter the consequences, we’ll not only miss the humility learning experience, we’ll likely continue to experience failure without absorbing any of its other valuable lessons.
- A little failure will never stop the truly determined.
Granted, you want to succeed at whatever you attempt. Just because you try and fail, however, doesn’t mean it’s the end of the line. If you give up that easily, you probably don’t want the stated goal as much as you think you do. The fact is that a few failures won’t stop anyone who’s determined to succeed.
- Failures always come before success.
You need only to look at history to see that failures always come before success. The world’s greatest inventors didn’t succeed the first time out. Neither did renowned architects, engineers, automotive designers, chefs, painters, photographers, politicians, and so on. They stumbled and fell, sifted through the failed experience and went on to devise and create something better, stronger, more durable, memorable and valuable. For them, failure wasn’t the end, but the beginning of a journey to success.
- You learn flexibility.
After experiencing failure, sticking to the approach that didn’t work isn’t going to end with a favorable result. It quickly becomes apparent that you need to be a little more resilient, to bounce back from the failure and employ some flexibility in your next attempt. Here’s where the ability to revise, adapt, and modify — or even throwing out the old way altogether and starting fresh — comes in handy. Without first having failed, you’d never learn to be so flexible.
- There is no one “right” way.
Life isn’t a simple math problem where there’s only one correct answer. What feels like a failure to you may not be the same for someone else. Similarly, there are many ways to build a mousetrap, house, or bridge, cook a chicken dinner, or paint a building. Once you accept the fact that there is no one “right” way to do things, you’ll have learned a great lesson from failure. This is true even though others may try to tell you that you didn’t do it the right way, as if they alone know what that might be. The right way is the way that works — and it’s different for each person.
- You don’t know what you’re capable of until you try.
If fear of failure is holding you back, get used to going nowhere. Or, you could try changing your perspective to embrace the concept that you don’t know what you are actually capable of until you try. If you adopt this attitude, you’ll be more hopeful and determined to see a task or project through. Sure, you might fail. But you’ll never know what you’re made of until you put yourself to the test. This is another vastly underestimated lesson failure teaches.
- Others don’t hold your failure against you as much as you think.
Society is rife with examples of people who’ve made colossal blunders. While the mistakes of the rich and famous may captivate headlines for a while, the truth is that most people don’t hold such failures against the person who experienced them for too long. There are some exceptions, however, and those have to do with failures that have caused great harm to others. Generally speaking, though, it’s the individual who thinks his or her own failure is greater than others regard it.
- Failure gives you a starting point to move on.
Failure is like a clear punctuation mark at the end of a sentence. It gives you a starting point to move on. Once you’ve failed, you have an open page ahead of you. Of course, you can stall and remain fixated at that point on the page, but the lure of opportunity ahead should compel you to take action.
Failure badge image available from Shutterstock
Kane, S. (2018). 10 Lessons Failure Teaches. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 8, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/10-lessons-failure-teaches/