Failing is never fun, but there are lessons to be learned that will enrich your life.
My eyes eagerly read the list of names posted in front of me. My heart raced. I saw my best friend’s name, but not mine.
I scanned the list of names again.
Definitely not there.
My eyes filled with tears, and I turned and briskly walked to my locker on the other side of the high school building. It was a blur but I remember hoping that no one noticed I was crying.
I was 14 years old and a freshman in high school. I had decided to try out for the basketball cheerleading team. The basketball team was notoriously easy to make – much easier than the football cheerleading team. I was certain I’d make it since I had some years of grade school cheer under my belt.
When I found out I didn’t make the team, I felt hurt, embarrassed, less than, and angry. Even thinking about it now, over 20 years later, I still feel the sting.
When I got home from school that day, I tearfully told my mom that I didn’t make the team. She tried to cheer me up, but I didn’t want to hear it.
All I wanted to do was crawl into a deep, dark hole, never to be seen again.
Failing SUCKS. But you know what?
If you never failed, you’d never grow. You would have less wisdom, less compassion, and less resilience – and let’s face it, you’d be a pretty boring person.
So when you’re finally ready to crawl out of the hole you’ve been hiding in, remember these lessons.
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Life Lessons from Failure
There is a lot to be learned from failure. Next time you fail at something, instead of beating yourself up over it, use it to better yourself. Here are some significant lessons that failure can teach you.
1. You get what you give.
When we fail at something, one of the first thoughts we have is that we weren’t enough. We weren’t talented enough to get that job, we weren’t lovable enough to maintain that relationship, we weren’t smart enough to get that business off the ground.
Instead, ask yourself if you really gave it all you got and be honest with yourself. If I had asked my 14-year-old self that question, the answer would have definitely been a big, fat NO. I was so certain that I’d make the team that I didn’t think I had to try that hard. Bless my teenage heart.
Next, identify where you could have given more and remember it for next time. I could have practiced a lot more before the try-out. If I had decided to try out again for the team the following year, practicing would have been high on my list of priorities.
Now if you decide that you did give it your best shot, then be ok with that. You should sleep easy knowing you gave it your all, and there’s nothing else you could have done.
You never fail because you aren’t enough of something. You are always enough. This particular thing just wasn’t meant to be. You know how I know this? Because it didn’t happen.
Remind yourself that many more amazing opportunities are coming your way that are going to be a much better fit for your life.
Failure is great at teaching us resilience if we let it. When I didn’t make the basketball cheer team, I wallowed in self-pity and didn’t even think about going for it again the following year, or any other activity that involved trying out.
Who knows how many great experiences I missed out on because I didn’t try again!
Don’t let yourself stay on the ground when life knocks you down. Learn resilience. Stand back up. Recognize that failure doesn’t define who you are. Take this failure and use it to propel you forward.
3. A clearer idea of your values.
Sometimes when we’re in the pursuit of something we want, we lose sight of what we really believe in. We’re so focused on getting that one thing that we forget what’s really important to us.
When we fail it forces us to look inside of ourselves and examine what went wrong. Why didn’t this work out? What would have happened if it did? What would I have had to give up?
Maybe you were heading down the wrong path, away from who you truly are. Figure it out and remember that not everything is worth the sacrifice.
Can you imagine if you never failed? If you succeeded at every single thing you tried? You’d feel invincible! Your ego would grow for sure.
Failing reminds us that we’re human, and we’re not all that different from each other. We become more compassionate with each failure because it teaches us the pain that others experience too.
5. Processing emotions.
There is a slew of negative emotions that can accompany failure. Shame, grief, frustration, anger, sadness.
I know you want to pretend these feelings aren’t there and do whatever it takes to numb them. But I hate to tell you, there’s no way around it. You will never fully overcome your failure without facing your emotions.
The more you face your emotions, the better you become at analyzing them and moving forward as a stronger version of yourself.
If we fail at reaching a goal that we know is right for us, there’s usually one reason why – our approach. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that we didn’t fail at all. We just tried an approach that didn’t work.
That means going back to the drawing board and figuring out other ways to reach success and trying them until we find the way that works. In order to do that we need to learn how to tap into different networks and resources.
It’s scary as hell to try again after you’ve failed at something. Everything in your being is telling you to quit to avoid all of the negative emotions that come along with failing. It takes true courage to push past this resistance and try again.
Do it anyway. If you fail, learn from it and then try again. If you succeed, well then it was totally worth it.
The more you do things that scare you, the more comfortable you become with putting yourself out there, and the more courageous you become. It’s pretty amazing!
A Final Thought
I am reminded of these lessons every time I fail, and now hopefully you will be, too. But even more than that, there are more personal lessons unique to you that your failures will teach you if you look closely.
Approach your failures with curiosity and self-love, and you’ll find that failures can be some of the most magical gifts life has for us.