Be willing to see failure as feedback.


What does failure mean to you?

With time, I have come to realize that failure has always been my greatest teacher. Each failure pointed me in a better direction. Helped me to develop strength and authenticity. Ultimately unveiling who I was and what I was destined to become. 

  • The failing grade I received on my first exam in graduate school taught me how to ask for support when I needed it most. No matter how shameful I felt or embarrassed I was.
  • The end of a long-term relationship taught me how to value my time alone and make tough decisions for myself. No matter how weak I felt or lonesome I was.
  • The lay off from a job I loved taught me how to let go, look forward, and trust in something so much bigger than myself. No matter how scared I was or irrelevant I felt.


What determines our reaction to failure?

Learning from failure is the ultimate goal. That said, not everyone responds to failure in the same way, at the same time.

Our reaction to failure is determined by several factors, including:

  1. The timing of the failure.
  2. The magnitude of the failure.
  3. The attribution attached to the failure.
  4. The level of support during the failure.
  5. The self-efficacy and belief in starting over.

Ask someone how they feel about failure in the midst of it; life as they know it is over. Ask someone how they feel about failure one year later; life as they know it has been transformed.

The key to supporting someone experiencing failure is not to rush them through the healing process. Yes, in the long run, the gifts of failure outweigh the costs.  But we must be sensitive to how dark it feels in the eye of the storm. Only then can move towards the light.


Is it possible to see failure in a positive light?

Under the right conditions, failure strengthens us, adds to our self-knowledge, and enhances the quality of our lives.

  • If it weren’t for failure, I would not have met my husband John.
  • If it weren’t for failure, I would not be a psychology professor.
  • If it weren’t for failure, I would not have written three textbooks.
  • If it weren’t for failure, I would not be the person I am today.

Your turn:

  • If it weren’t for failure _______________.
  • If it weren’t for failure _______________.
  • If it weren’t for failure _______________.
  • If it weren’t for failure _______________.

Resilience Exercise

What lessons have you learned from failure?

41 thoughts on “Be willing to see failure as feedback.

  1. What a great way of looking at it all. I simply never saw it that way, but will now try harder. I tend to throw my toys out of the pram when things go wrong or I get it wrong and fail. Tantrums at my age! Ridiculous but I’m working on it. Thanks for your very useful post. I look forward to more!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the feedback!

      This post was inspired by the times I sit with my psychology students post-exams. Helping them find the one life lesson they could learn from the ashes of defeat.

      The pheonix always rises.
      When we give failure room to breathe..
      This I know for sure.


  2. Pingback: Failure is our greatest teacher | Success Inspirers World

    1. Providing encouragement in the space between failure and personal transformation makes all the difference. No matter how long it takes. Nothing complicated. Simply being there for others (and ourselves) during the lows and the highs. In person and/or in word. Something you do as an author, in your writing, every single day. You bear witness.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. If it weren’t for business failure in my mid forties, I never would have followed my dreams and became a teacher.

    That said, I have to admit that I bruise easily and it takes me a bit to pick up from the blow to the ego and begin again when failure hits.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love how self-aware and honest you are VJ. So refreshing! Two of your greatest strengths.

      The key is not how much you bruise, but the beauty that becomes if it. Including your “One Women’s Quest” blog. A source of comfort for so many of us.

      Thank goodness for your failures. Otherwise, your students and your readers would never have had the benefits of your wisdom.


      Liked by 1 person

  4. Such an encouraging post because it’s hard to remember to look at “failure” in a positive light most of the time. If it wasn’t for failure, I wouldn’t have learned as much as I have, I wouldn’t have taken my degree all those years ago or started my blog. Great post, thank you for sharing and for the wonderful reminder! 🙂
    Caz xx

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Such a great post!

    I learned to think of failure as a learning experience long ago, when I was trying to leave an abusive relationship. Each unsuccessful try taught me more about what I would face so I could figure out how to get through it. Like the belief that the people who give us the hardest time and the most pain are our best teachers, so are our greater failures. Good thing about failure, you can try again with your new knowledge.

    Big hugs, for this post, Dr!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Seeing Failure as Feedback – Paleo Marine

  7. Reblogged this on Brianne's Blog and commented:
    I can’t tell you how long it took me to break through the mindset that I must succeed on the first try for anything I attempt or else I must self-flagellate and wallow in the aftermath of my failure. This mindset is not only unrealistic but also harmful. The fear of failure can prevent us from moving forward and learning from our mistakes to become better and better. It’s so easy to slip into the pattern of comfort and familiarity, which is why so many people stick with the same job or relationship year after year even though they’re miserable.

    Change is scary. Failure is even scarier. But you can’t expect anything to change if you don’t try. Be willing to cut yourself some slack if the result isn’t what you wanted. Sometimes the best things in life happen entirely by accident and can be found only by hitting and overcoming every roadblock in your way first.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you so much for writing such a relevant article! I used to be terrified of failure but, like public speaking or performing in front of an audience, it gets less scary the more you do it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve flubbed something up or ran into technical malfunctions during a dance number, but those performances tend to be the ones I remember the most – and fondly!

    This topic can apply to all areas of life and embracing failure is something I hope more people can get in the habit of doing!

    Liked by 1 person

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