How to Succeed through Failure

Mackenzie Wright's picture

As children our parents and teachers try to teach us through a system of punishments and rewards. Most of us got praise and rewards when we did something right-- no matter how easily it might have come.

Likewise, if we struggled or did poorly, it was often met with negative reinforcement, and sometimes-- particularly in schools-- punishment. It didn't matter if the test was really hard, if we were having serious trouble understanding the materials-- repeated failures resulted in chastisement (or in some cases, hostility), embarrassment, more work, loss of privileges, and eventually punishment.

Lack of challenges stagnates our growth and self-improvement.

This taught a great many of us to fear failure. Some people fear failure so much that they're afraid to try new things and take chances, for fear of the backlash if they don't catch on quickly. It's also a fear of feeling inferior, and letting everyone know it.
The worst part about this attitude is that failure is often the doorway to success.

Challenging Oneself to Improve

Lack of challenges stagnates our growth and self-improvement. As soon as a body builder ceases to add more weights in smaller increments, or more repetitions to his daily workout, he stops getting stronger. It is the same thing with anything—when you are staying in your safe zone, no longer pushing yourself, you are missing out on the opportunity to grow and improve.

You can’t get very far in life just doing what comes easy to you. After all, if something being hard stopped you every time, you’d have never learned how to walk. If what you’re doing is easy, unchallenging, if it’s always safe, it’s a good bet that you’re in a bit of a rut. To get out of that rut, you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone and actually struggle with something.

Learn to Look at Failures as Learning Experiences

One of the biggest problems comes when we associate failure with negative feelings and negative responses. Even though most of us have been conditioned to make those associations, it benefits us to start snapping out of it. Think of that baby learning to walk—he does not get embarrassed when he falls or wobbles; he’s too young to have any inhibition about his failure. He’s just determined to get up and try again. He doesn’t care about the failure at all—he brushes it off and continues toward the goal.

Likewise, we need to learn to take failure as par for the course. Yes, it can be disappointing not to always reach the goal. However, you have to snap out of the idea that failure means you’re inferior to others, because we all make mistakes and fail sometimes. It doesn’t make you unworthy of love or respect, it’s just part of being human.

When you carry the negative feelings and fear of not succeeding on your shoulders, it inhibits you from trying and psyches you out. Like that baby, you need to brush it off and not let it shake you. You need to move past the stumble and move forward towards the goal again.

Double your Failure Rate

To fail is to learn. Thomas Edison tried over a thousand times to invent the light bulb; but he refused to see those attempts as failures. To Edison, he had successfully found over 1000 ways it wouldn’t work. All he needed was one way for it to actually work.
When you are failing, you are learning. You are problem solving. You are gleaning insight.

You are successfully finding ways that things do not work, and you can learn from all of those experiences. So the next time you don’t achieve the goal you expected to achieve, pat yourself on the back— as long as you made an honest effort, you have still achieved a goal. You learned something that will eventually lead to improvement. The more failures you have, the faster you will succeed.