Trey Colley blog

You Need to Change the Way You Think About Failure

We live in a society in which success is lauded and failure demonized – portrayed as a shameful event to be avoided at all costs.

Despite this, failure is vital. Virtually all people we consider to be ‘successful’ have sustained serious failures during their lives and careers.

JK Rowling said it best in her Harvard University commencement speech.

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.”

In other words, if you don’t put yourself in the position to fail you also remove any chance of eventually achieving success.

With this in mind, here’s how you can reshape your relationship with failure to put you in a better position to succeed.

Accept failure as an inevitable part of the journey to success.

Most of us have the mindset that failure is to be avoided like the plague. As such, we may avoid taking chances and risks that could bring about greater things.

When you shut off the possibility of failure, you also remove any possibility of achieving success.

What’s more, there’s a lot to be gained from the failures themselves – whether knowledge, experience or both. Usually, we learn more from failure than success.

Reframe failure as an opportunity to collect data.

Another common mistake made by success-seekers is taking a failure too personally, allowing it to affect their sense of worth and their confidence in their own abilities.

Many do this to the point where they decide they aren’t capable of achieving their goals – as a result of their one failure – and give up.

Instead, by taking an objective standpoint on whatever failure you sustain – and using that failure as data to inform your next venture – failures not only hurt less, but they can provide useful insight to guide you on the road to eventual success.

Understand that there are a ton of benefits to failing.

One of the biggest myths perpetrated by our society is that failure is an exclusively negative phenomenon, when this couldn’t be further from the truth. Failure has a myriad of benefits, aside from just being a painful obstacle on the path to success.

  1. Failure builds resilience.

With each failure you overcome – getting back on your feet and trying again – you build inner strength.

As a result, over time failures will affect you less and less, until each setback feels like no more than a speed bump on the road to greater things.

  1. It makes you less afraid to take chances.

Like many things, the fear of failure is usually worse than the actual failure itself. 

As you sustain more failures and realize they aren’t so bad after all, your fear of failure will hold you back less, so you won’t be afraid to take a risk or chance that could be vital in your journey to success.

  1. You’ll value your accomplishments more.

If everything in life came easy to you, you’d value what you had less.

By failing, you’ll appreciate what you have more when you eventually succeed and accomplish what you want, making your accomplishments feel more meaningful and teaching you not to take them for granted. 

This puts you in a better position to maintain your fortunate position and makes you less likely to be reckless and potentially lose what you’ve gained.

  1. Failing keeps your ego in check.

When things have been going well for a while – if your career has gone from strength to strength, you’ve managed to sustain a great relationship and/or accomplished multiple personal goals – its easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’re invincible, until you fail.

While no one enjoys failing, this is an important event to remind you of your limitations, helping you to view failure as a very real possibility when you take a chance or risk in the future. This enables you to give each decision the consideration that isn’t possible when you absolutely believe you won’t fail.

Moreover, it can be a teacher to stop being complacent in expecting success, pushing you further in your journey of personal development.

Not only does this benefit you in your career, but failing helps you to stay humble, making you a significantly more pleasant person to be around than someone made obnoxious by an unbroken chain of successes.

Remember that behind every success is a mountain of failures.

As a society, we love to consume stories of success – but we also erase the journey of successive failures that got our role models to where they are today.

This sociocultural habit makes us think, subconsciously, that when we fail we’ll never get to where we want to be, despite the fact that failure is an unavoidable component of achieving success.

Famously, Thomas Edison famously created 10,000 versions of what would become the first lightbulb before he was successful. Yet, we only remember the one success among thousands of failures.

What separates successful people from those who aren’t is the fact that they never stopped trying – even after the 10,000th failure, successful people get back up and try again, knowing that success is only a few more failures round the corner.

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