Is it possible to see failure in a positive light?

F. A. I. L.

= First Attempt At Learning

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.

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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.

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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 _______________.

What life lessons has failure taught you?

76 thoughts on “Is it possible to see failure in a positive light?

      1. I love your work! And your delivery is passionate and contagious. I’ve been thinking about short videos but I can’t stand to see myself (in pictures) or video. 😛 Your students are fortunate to have you as their professor!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you so much!

          My best tip for you is to start where I did with my first video blog: https://drandreadinardo.com/2018/05/25/5-steps-to-thriving/ <— I took an old post and added in my narrative (without myself personally in the shot), this gave me the confidence to venture a little more outside my comfort zone with a selfie style video.

          Both styles work! You don’t have to be in the shot. Whatever you decide, I am here for virtual cheering & support when and if you go for it!

          🎥🍿

          Liked by 1 person

  1. Absolutely. No one can succeed without failing first. How we react to that failure is what shapes us, IMO.

    I always enjoyed Tom Peters’ comment on failing: that if we feared failing, nobody would ever learn to walk, because none of us ever stand up and start walking without failing and falling down.

    That’s the intellectual side, of course, and the physical aspect. Emotionally, it’s more of a struggle. We put greater hopes and expectations in trying to succeed, so the taste and feel of failure can be shockingly bitter and paralyzing.

    Part of that, too, is understanding that it’ll take some time and processing to recover from failure. Being patient with ourselves is part of believing in ourselves. I think that’s where so many of us really fail. We invest so much in trying to succeed that we let it define us, in part because we hunt for validation. Then, when failure is encountered, our validation is shredded.

    It’s beautiful how complicated people are. We’re dynamic, complex puzzles and deceive ourselves into thinking we’re static.

    Thanks for another thought-inducing post. Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Such an intriguing and inspired reflection on my post. Thank you Michael! You always know how to take the discussion to the next level.

      So many points worth expanding upon. Especially when we look below the surface as to why failure hurts when it happens. Validation is key, as you write. We put all our identity in “one basket”(the relationship, the job, the grades).

      And if we “fail at that” then who are we? Failures. We’ve all felt that crush in identity. Which is why healthy distractions, growth mindsets, and strong support systems are everything. And Faith. Above all else.

      Life makes perfect sense — when lived backwards. Only then do we see the elegance of our mistakes. Here’s hoping we see the beauty in our failures looking forward too. 🍃

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks. I enjoy reading your posts. I dislike using words like mindfulness, because it’s become another pop culture buzz word, but I think it’s apropos here. I ‘know’ many of these things, but forget about them on a daily basis as the world and my issues suck me down. Reading your posts help me reflect and regain balance, and become more mindful of how I’m responding to events. Cheers

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I believe Failure can be positive. I talk about this a lot with others and see failure as an opportunity to learn, what works and what doesn’t. Each misstep I have taken, each slip, each detour, each time I tried and just didn’t make it became another stepping stone on my path to success and to the life I live now.

    Thank you for this reminder! This is great!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Failure is beautiful…
    It means your in the “game” and not side lining your life out of fear..

    I see failure as success because hopefully if your able it will teach you how to recover as well..
    These are both essential criteria’s in your overall development and growth in any human department of living..

    Unfortunately, our society has created a stigma with failing, seeing it only as a negative thing..

    They need a course that designed to teach children, parents, teens, adults how to fail miserably as a life lesson class, and then coach you back on how to recover yourself (mind body spirit) as well..

    It is in all that where you find your infinite wisdom that can never be taught in a class room..
    That is what is lacking in our society today !!!

    Your blog is GREAT ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for writing this! I really like this reframe of failure. Recently, I shared with a student how many rejection letters I got before I got an interview for a doctoral program. This is exactly what I was thinking but couldn’t find the right way to say it. I’m going to share this with students.

    Failure has taught me a lot about faith, knowing who to have in my “circle” and about my own level of resilience! If it weren’t for failure, I would not have a Ph.D, I would not have had such significant personal growth, and I would not have discovered yoga/meditation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awesome news! 🙂
      I love that you’re going to share this post with your students!

      – So often, just like you, I have shared my own failures with my students — and then ended with the punch line “And look where I am now”. And in that moment they get a glimmer of hope in their eyes, after hearing that I received a 38% on my first Masters’ level stats exam, and still graduated with a PhD.

      – Thank you for also sharing what all your failures (and PhD rejection letters; I have many too) have taught you. Truly inspiring!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! I hope that when I share these with students (even my errors/lessons as a therapist) they will feel comfortable talking with me about barriers to their learning so I can help them.

        I think once we have the right intention, we can show our students that we are human just like them (with struggles too) while maintaining healthy professional boundaries with our students.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes to all of the above!

          Especially about boundaries. I always remind students that I’m their professor, not their psychologist. A phrase they often repeat back to me, when asking for help.

          Which translates into coaching and supporting their academic struggles while building a bridge to counselling on campus, when and if they need it.

          Win-Win! 📖💙

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Very wise! I saw this in my feed this morning and it is very relevant to the current feelings. I’ve learned that society still has a big stigma on disabled individuals, I feel like I fail a lot just to get to a point where I can get to a level playing field with my peers.

    Like

  6. Yes, I think you can. I think it was Henry Ford, or another famous inventor who said … that he know 100 ways not to do it.

    Failure is a positive thing and I feel how else do you get experience in life.

    I think school system globally creates right wrong, pass fail as a way of grading exams.. but real life isn’t like that.

    Life is more like how it went wrong, and how to do we bring it back ..

    Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. Pingback: Seeing Failure as Feedback – Paleo Marine

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. 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.

      xo

      Liked by 1 person

    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 3 people

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

  14. 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.

      Like

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