As a diet and emotional eating coach, my clients often come to me mourning their previous failures. And defeat can be overwhelming and painful. You very well may be terrified to try again because of a past failure.
But I’m gonna say something that might make you a little nervous. You should be proud of your failures. You should wear them like a badge of honor. Because failure is a very important step in your success. You didn’t go wrong by failing. You only went wrong in letting failure be anything more than a small hiccup in your progress.
Little kids know failure is just a step towards success…
When I was 5, An older girl pointed out that I mispronounced the word three. See, I was saying “twee” not three (ah, how cute!) I was unable to push out my tongue and blow air to make the TH sound. So this girl said that if I practiced all night and came back the next morning with proper pronunciation, I’d get a big bag of candy. (woohoo!) I went home and gave it everything I could, and the next day, I came back, opened my mouth…
And said “TWEE”.
But did my 5 year-old-self give up? Did I say, “maybe I’ll just do things in twos or fours for the rest of my life?” No! I mourned my bag of candy, moved on with my life. And today…
I can pronounce three with the best of them! (thank you, thank you!)
As children, we instinctively know the reality of failure.
Failing means you took the wrong approach. It means things are gonna take you a little longer. It means that you didn’t get a straight, easy path to success.
What it doesn’t mean it that the doors have slammed shut and you are locked out. It doesn’t mean you should give up. And it’s not telling you that you suck or that you’re unlovable. It’s just a clue from the universe guiding you towards your goal. It’s telling you, “Not this way…look over there!.”
The true value in failure
Any setback tells you one more way NOT to do something. You didn’t know that a certain approach wouldn’t work before you tried. Now you do! And that puts you that much closer to what you want.
Failing means you risked and you tried. You’ll have a perfect record of not failing if you sit at home in front of the TV and risk nothing. But you’ll also never have success.
Lack of immediate success tests how much you want something. If you’re only willing to try for a week, or a month, you’re telling the universe that you didn’t really want it. Even if deep inside you know that’s not true. So you should ask yourself why you’re not letting yourself go after what you want.
Failure often leads to a new path…if you let it. You might not be on the road you expected. But this road might be taking you someplace even better. Some of the best things in my life happened from a detour.
Repeated failure signals that you are the class of the greats. Most people who have great success have a long history of failing.
So go out there and get dirty!
Make a mess! And do it totally all wrong. But do it will the picture in your mind of success. And be willing to be flexible with the idea of what success means.
Maybe you got on the plane thinking you were going to Barbados. But instead you got off in Iceland. They are both amazing destinations. You just need to believe in yourself and know that your efforts will take you exactly where YOU need to be.
And how does this translate to you, my client.
I expect you to momentarily fail at times. But if you stick with it, I believe your goals are waiting for you.
So get moving. Because if you’re waiting for the perfect time to start your journey, you’re stopping yourself from the benefits of failure. It is fine to fail. It isn’t fine wait for things to be perfect. Because without being able to risk, you can’t succeed
Agree with you completely. We have to get back in the saddle again. If not we are left by the side of the road and everybody else will drive past us.
Glad that you agree Catarina. We definitely don’t want to spend our lives watching people drive by us.
Sabrina Quairoli says
I agree completely. Failure is a part of the process. We aren’t always going to get it right the first time. We may never get it right the first time. But, are we better for it? Absolutely! We are great creators and can really make our life wonderful if we just have a little patience and we keep the eye on the goal and readjust as needed.
I agree, Sabrina. I almost never get it right the first time.
Doreen Pendgracs says
Right on, Erica! As a freelance writer, I am conditioned to accept that not everything I want turns out. I don’t get to write for every client I want. I don’t get paid as much as I deserve. But we learn to make compromises and accept small victories as important in our progression. Each small win or achievement takes us closer to our goal. Thx for the encouraging post.
I can see how you would have to be resilient as a freelance writer, Doreen. I’m glad you have found ways to compromise and celebrate the small wins.
Ramona McKean says
What are “failures” anyway? Not trying in the first place? I’m inclined to see them as a matter of perception. When I angst over what I see as a mistake, I find it helpful to re-frame it; i.e., look at it in a new and different way. We’re here to learn and grow. I like what Ram Dass (formerly Richard Alpert) said: “There’s something you haven’t learned? Well, planet earth is the ‘stay after school planet,’ so when are you going to get with the curriculum?” Try, try, try, fail, fail, succeed, and so on.
Thanks for sharing the Ram Dass quote, Ramona. That is a good one.
Ken Dowell says
I’ve often admired watching children fail and then re-double their efforts. Whether its a mechanical thing or just saying “twee” most children show a resilience that many of us older folks can learn from. There are no apparent consequences from failure until we learn to attach them to it.
It is fascinating, isn’t it? I heard once that the words we have in our language actually determine the way we think. And when we’re little, we don’t know the word failure exists.
Thank you for this timely post.
As much as we have to continue to get up and move on, sometimes we feel tired and weary. I know I do!
It takes effort and guts to keep on going when your body and mind want to stop but how else will you succeed and work in excellence? Nobody likes to “fail” but as long as we learn from our past experiences it is not in vain.
I definitely hear you on regarding getting tired and weary. I’ve been there many times. And I like you’re point that if you learn a lesson, it is never in vain.
Thank you, Erica, for the post! Each time I read lovely posts like these it helps me push myself!
Thank you, Sushmita. I’m glad you get something out of these posts.
Marquita Herald says
Great analogy with the kids Erica. Good heavens if kids stopped when they failed they’d never learn to walk! I must admit I rarely use the word “failure”. I prefer to think of goals or any effort to accomplish something meaningful as experiments and if something doesn’t work, I figure out what went wrong, adjust the formula, and give it another go. It may seem like just a mind game, but to me, the words “failure” and “success” have such an all or nothing connotation, and life just isn’t like that, unless we make it that way. Thanks for the inspiration!
I like your take on learning and growing, Marquita. I’m sure that allows you to really flourish.
Donna Janke says
Well said and what I needed to be reminded of this morning. Time to get moving and get out there and get dirty!
I’m glad this was timely, Donna. I think we all need this reminder from time to time because growing can be downright difficult.
RoseMary Griffith says
Well said! Love your clear and positive approach to failing. Things most often don’t turn out the right way on the first try, but we have to keep working at it.
Thank you Rose Mary. I’m glad you like the positive approach.
William Rusho says
My new favorite quote is from Alfred in :Batman Begins”: -“‘Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
I think failure is as important as success. You can trust someone who has failed, and regrouped. Someone who has never failed, you never know how they will react when they do.
Great quote from Batman Begins! And good point about finding merit in those who fail and regroup. You know you have someone who can have someone who can overcome hurdles.