How has failure shaped your life?

What a great question and one that will teach us a lot about ourselves. Most people view failure as something negative. Let’s face it, nobody likes to fail. In school, we are taught that anything less than a 70% is failing and failure should be avoided at all costs. When our favorite sports team loses, we certainly don’t celebrate.

For most of us, it feels terrible when we try to do something and fail. But what if I told you that failure is a GOOD thing? What if I told you failure is good and always succeeding is bad?

As John Maxwell states in his book Failing Forward,
The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception to response and failure.

Thomas Edison completed 10,000 experiments before he created the light bulb. Around the time of the 9,000th experiment, he was asked how he found the resilience to keep experimenting despite all of his failures. He looked at the person puzzled. “What do you mean failures”, he asked? “I haven’t failed. I have completed 9,000 SUCCESSFUL experiments on how NOT to create a light bulb.” Edison didn’t view his 9,000 experiments as failures. He knew the secret to success, you only fail when you stop trying.

If you were Edison, would you have still been conducting experiments after 9,000 attempts?

Would you have viewed all those attempts as successes or failures?

What if Edison would have given up? What if Edison viewed those attempts as failures and thought failure was bad? Do you think he would have had the courage to continue trying? What would all of our lives look like today if he wouldn’t have kept trying?

Our failures are a necessary part of life. We ALL fail! It’s almost guaranteed that we are going to fail at somethings in life. Accept it. Embrace it. The only people who never fail are those who never try.

If you haven’t failed in a while, maybe you are playing it too safe. Are you playing little league when you have the skills to play professional?

Let’s try a little exercise to test your perception of failure. Answer the following questions honestly.

1. Is it better to never try, or is it better to try and fail?
2. If you haven’t failed at anything recently, is that a good thing?
3. Do you fear failure, or do you look forward to failure and embrace it?
4. When something didn’t work the way you had hoped, do you think you are a failure or do you think something didn’t work?
5. When you try to do something and it doesn’t work, do you quit or do you keep trying?

I challenge you to change your perception and your response to failure. Begin to recognize failure for what it is – a failed experiment. It isn’t personal. We should all view ourselves as scientists who conduct experiments on a daily basis. Some experiments will work and others won’t. It doesn’t mean we are a bad scientist, it just means that some of our experiments didn’t work. And if we are a scientist who doesn’t conduct experiments because we are afraid of the results, are we a successful scientist?

Celebrate the number of TOTAL experiments (or attempts), not the number of successful experiments in your life. The unsuccessful experiments teach us something – if we take the time to learn from them. We learn more from our failures than our successes.

As John Maxwell states,
Success makes us less reflective.

Without reflection, we won’t make the necessary adjustments to keep improving and moving forward.

To close, I encourage you to stop and think about how failure has shaped your life. Think of all of the positive things that have come from those failures and all that you have learned about yourself.

If you tried last week to eat healthy and you did great all week until Friday night at happy hour, what did you learn from that? What will you do differently this week?

If you tried to quit smoking and you did great until you took a long road trip to visit a friend, what did you learn from that? What will you do differently next time?

Do you view those two examples as failures or successes?

If you have an achieving mindset, you will view both of those examples as successful experiments. You learned something about yourself and now know potential risks to you achieving your goal. How you address those risks going forward will determine the outcome of your next experiment.

If you have an average mindset, you will view those experiments as failures and you won’t learn anything.

Whatever failures you have had, stop and reflect on them and learn something! When we learn from a failed attempt and then try again, we will eventually succeed.

Enjoy the Journey!

Author's Bio: 

Darleen Barnard is a Certified Personal Trainer, Weight Loss Specialist, Behavior Change Specialist, and Life Coach. She is passionate about helping people reach their full potential by focusing on a positive mindset and a healthy body. By working with the entire individual and focusing on mindset, habits, and subconscious beliefs, health and wellness, she has successfully helped clients achieve their goals and reach new levels.