Discover the Positive Benefits of Failure

Learning from the classroom of life

It’s often said that failure is not an option. But the truth is people do occasionally fail, whether it’s a major life change such as a divorce or job loss, or something lesser such as missing a deadline or an opportunity.

If a lesson can be learned from failure, then all is not lost. It’s your attitude and how you look at failure that makes the difference. Look at failure as an opportunity to improve something, and do it better the next time. It is through failure, whether in our career, relationships or life in general, that we can find a path to something greater.


Learn from your mistakes

One of the benefits of failure is gaining perspective and figuring out how to improve. If you look at failure as a positive, rather than as a negative, you reach a new level of understanding and refinement, said Angela Chester, counselor and motivational speaker.

“When given a positive association, failure is a stage in the learning process, not an insurmountable obstacle of life. Failure teaches that a particular process, format, or equation is not the most effective, balanced or best route to a particular outcome,” Chester said.

As an example, she points out that the prescription medication Sildenefail (Viagra) was originally developed as a heart treatment, but it wasn’t successful in that context. It was successful, however, as a sexual enhancement drug for erectile dysfunction. If they had held true to the context of the drug being a failure, they would not have been successful in finding a solution for another health concern.

“Failure need not be an be-all-end-all, instead, it should be looked at for what it is – a stepping stone to a solution of a different concern,” she said.

One of the most basic benefits of failing is that it proves we can survive.

Too often, we hold back on taking risks because we're afraid of what might happen if it doesn't work out, said Rachel Heslin, author of Navigating Life: 8 Simple Strategies to Guide Your Way, and founder of The Fullness of Your Power.

“Sure, we might not get the outcome we wanted, and there may be consequences that we'd rather not face when our plans fall through, but at the end of the day, we're still breathing. This can help us put future choices into perspective, making it easier to move forward through the fear,” Heslin said.

Another way that failing can help us is by putting us in the position of evaluating what it was that we were trying to accomplish. When we become too fixated on a specific end result, we can lose sight of what we really want.

“By sifting through the aftermath of a failure, not to blame but to deliberately try to identify what we learned and gained from the experience, we can see how even what looks like a huge setback could still contribute to our overall growth and development. Going forward, we can incorporate this understanding before moving into a new project by asking ourselves, ‘Even if this fails, what about it would still make it worth doing?’” Heslin said.

A change of perspective

Deborah Peters, a business coach and founder of the Neuro Engineering Insitute, said removing judgment from an experience can help change perspective.

“I don't consider anything a failure. I used to. I used to beat myself down with self-criticism and judgment. Now, I believe we are having experiences that provide feedback on what it is we need to think, feel and do differently in order to achieve the outcomes we seek. The shift then occurs within for us to gain positive learnings from the experience. Conversely, if we label something as a failure or lack of success we cut ourselves off from the inner growth and typically engage in negative self -talk, self -deprecation or apathy, the lack of the ability to go for it and push through to the other side,” she said.

“As a business coach I've observed women are far, far too hard on themselves around success or failure. They seem to have bought into this idea that they have to be perfect or do it all in order to be a success. Men, who make up most of my client base these days mostly because proportionately men tend to be the risk takers in business - much to our chagrin perhaps - are less apt to accept this erroneous belief that they have to do it all. They understand the concept of chunking…getting really good at something and then delegating the rest.”

And if you start to doubt yourself, remember what Thomas Edison said long ago: “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

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