We try so hard. Our best foot is often placed forward. But our intentions derail. Our risks don’t work out. All of us are imperfect. A life of meaning cannot be lived without some failure along the way. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. John Grisham couldn’t get a publisher and had to sell books from the trunk of his car.
Most of our lives are structured to avoid failure. What do we do when the house of cards tumbles? What happens when our worst fear comes true and failure finds its way into our lives?
The way we react to failure is vitally important to our character development, the health of our relationships, and the overall success of our projects.
Too often, we try to boomerang back from failure as quickly as possible. We try to cover it up, pretend it didn’t happen, excuse it, justify it, and attempt to avoid it again. This usually results in victim mentality, where we blame others and deflect responsibility.
We are so frightened about failing. The only value we often see to failure is avoiding it. But there is more there.
The first step to productive failing is accepting the consequences of failure. Stop running, hiding, and avoiding. If we cannot accept that we fail, we cannot learn from it. And if we cannot learn, we are doomed to repetition.
Everything in life is an opportunity to learn. When we are experiencing high emotion – such as deep pain or anger – the last thing we want to do is contemplate. We just want it to end.
When we fail, we are exposed to truth, sometimes harshly. Harsh truth is a teacher not a punisher. It is not looking to knock us down but build us up. We sometimes have to be knocked down in order to awaken our need.
Find the opportunity in failure. Discover what value, purpose or perversion led to the mistake. What can you learn about yourself in the sorrow of disappointment?
Finally, the essential step is to grow. Change. We have terrible long-term memories. What feels like a short-term catastrophe can be inexplicably repeated later on. We think the high hurt or high emotion of the moment will last forever.
But our patterns are too engrained within us. They are more powerful than our momentary emotions.
Growth does not happen inherently. It happens by intention. In the aftermath of our failure, we have to learn the lesson and commit to the changes necessary.
Failure will always find its way into our lives. There is no avoiding it forever. But how we react to it will determine a lot about the kind of person we will be.