FailureYesterday didn’t exactly start the way I would have hoped. This shouldn’t take long I thought as I slid the iron onto my new summer shirt. Instantly I knew something was wrong. The iron didn’t slide the way it should rather it instantly stuck. I quickly lifted it to reveal a nice new iron imprint on the back of my shirt. Apparently adhesive from a previous iron-on project left residue behind, creating a not-so-lovely imprint. Sigh.

Not thrilled by what just happened, I grabbed a different shirt to wear and headed to get ready for the day. On my way I thought I’ve been eating pretty well, exercising and breaking all of my daily step goals, I should weigh myself before my shower. Excited to see all the progress from my hard work, and ready for a pick-me-up after the shirt fiasco, I stepped onto the scale.

Well that can’t be right I thought as the numbers scrolled to a stop.  So, I did what anyone else would have done, I stepped off, allowed the scale to reset, and stepped back on. Much to my dismay, the same numbers returned to the display.

After two weeks of focusing on seemingly good choices, I had somehow managed to gain three pounds. A sense of failure hit me like a wave. “What’s the use?” “Failed again,” and a string of other discouraging negative self talk flooded my mind.

Have you ever been there? You’re working hard at something, whether it’s losing weight, working hard at your job, parenting, keeping up with every day life, trying to make a positive change or just progress in life when failure smacks you in the face. It stings. It hurts. And it can leave us reeling if we don’t do something positive with it.

What can you do with it? If you change the perspective you look at failure, you can choose to let it be a stepping stone, not a dead end.

5 Empowering Lessons from Failure:

  1. Accept failure is part of the growth process. – When things don’t work out as planned, allow the failure to provide feedback. What part of what you were doing worked? Which part of it wasn’t on point? Where can you make an adjustment? By accepting the failure and then treating it as feedback for growth, you can learn from it. Did you know the product WD-40 got its name because it took them 40 tries to figure out their successful formula? It failed the first 39 times! Don’t give up but use the feedback.
  2. You can experience failure but you are not a failure. – Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes you may fail epically. But, no matter how big a failure may be, it’s something that has happened, not something that defines you. It is not part of your identity. Guard the self-talk that follows a failure. Filter what you say to yourself and don’t hold on to negative nonconstructive feedback from yourself or anyone else. Let what’s said describe the situation. It doesn’t describe you.
  3. Failure can reveal new opportunities. – What we learn through a failure can show us a situation or an opportunity we hadn’t recognized before. The first makers of post-it notes hoped to create glue for notepads. When the glue failed to hold the paper together as intended, the inventor realized he had discovered a new product. When you encounter a failure, keep a look out for unexpected opportunities.
  4. Failure teaches us when we need a new approach. – When things don’t work out the way we intend, we’ve learned a way that doesn’t work. We can then press on to find a better way that will work. For me, I’ve learned that I need to write down what I eat so that I don’t lose track and underestimate what I’ve already eaten. I’ve learned and adapted. Now I’m empowered to be successful!
  5. Failure happens. – We all experience failure. Not one of us is immune. The next time you encounter failure; remind yourself that you’re in good company. It comes with being human. You’re empowered to choose to continue on and not let failure derail you from your dreams. Press on. Get up. Continue. Or, if your failure is particularly heavy, talk to a friend or a counselor. Work through the disappointment and then press on. Failure isn’t final.

Ironically as I finished writing this week’s blog post, an unwelcome waft of air reached my desk. While I typed, the roasted vegetables in the oven burnt to a crisp. While I was a bit disappointed by my necessary last minute menu change, it served as a reminder that failures can catch us by surprise. They come in all sizes. But we still are empowered to choose how we respond.

When failure happens, admit it, grieve it, accept it, evaluate it, learn from it, and be inspired by it.

How do you deal with failure? What’s the hardest part of failure for you? I’d love to hear from you. Click on the comment icon and join the conversation.

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Have a great week!

Susan Call - Author

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