Have you ever failed at something big? Have you felt the agony of that failure? Have you let it shake your confidence? Many of us would prefer to never fail, but without the f-word in our lives, life lessons don’t have the same depth of meaning. Isn’t failure (the f-word, a.k.a. challenges) just another word for achievement? Our successes and our challenges deserve equal consideration.

We need failure. Am I saying you cannot learn from repeated successes? Nope. I’m saying failure is a more cunning and skillful teacher. If you are willing to risk starting new work or personal projects with the possibility of setbacks, deep within every setback is a life lesson learned.

What if you flip the f-word on its side? What if you choose to look back on all the things in your life that didn’t turn out as expected and put them in a new pile? What if you labelled them achievements instead? Or better yet, your life-lessons-learned pile.

Failure’s Just a Label

The Oxford Dictionary defines achievement as “a thing that somebody has done successfully, especially using their own effort and skill.” If the thing is a project you worked on and later tossed into the failure pile, could you rummage around in that pile, re-examine the details, and find small successes buried deep within? Re-examining the details of what you perceive as a failure is an opportunity to turn it into a life lesson learned.

If you like lists, write one and use it as a support tool to reflect on. This action step could help you process future f-words. That method of processing has worked for me countless times in the past.

When things don’t go your way, isn’t that a lesson on how to not repeat the same actions? When you see colleagues or friends “fail,” isn’t that your lesson too? It’s a benefit to your future work and personal projects. Don’t fall into the trap of same-old same-old, and mislabel your achievements with the f-word.

Hindsight Offers a New Perspective

Years ago, I worked full time as a computer tech analyst and attended college part time. I woke up one morning and decided to create my first entrepreneurial venture. One where I could help small businesses grow quickly by offering computer system installation. As If I wasn’t busy enough already! Through word-of-mouth, I quickly gained three clients. It was exciting in the beginning, until time constraints got in my way. After I completed the initial implementation of computer systems in their home offices, clients would need my attention for maintenance and ongoing support. If they reached out during the day, I was at my day job. Kinda busy! If they called in the evenings, I was in class or studying. Ouch! I simply had no time to help them, and I collapsed the business six months later.

At the time, I labelled my venture with the f-word. In hindsight, with a new perspective, I’m proud of myself for my ambition and desire to succeed at new work projects. With hindsight as my helper, I re-labelled that experience — I picked it out of the failure pile and dropped it where it belongs: in my life-lessons-learned pile.

Thanks to that experience, I now know how to strategically manage my schedule. Well, most days!

Failure Opens New Doors

Failure is often troubling in the moment — but given time, our perspective has time to process and re-examine. It gives us a chance to let go of something old and remain open to something new.

Failure can be hard when going through difficult times, but in retrospect it can show us what was important and necessary about that particular experience. We may not see it for weeks, months, or even years later, but eventually we have the power and strength to see we learned an important life lesson. These experiences are opportunities to deepen our wisdom and see new doors opening up as a result of past events that seemed negative at the time. Hindsight always shines its light and offers a new perspective.

Are you going through a crisis right now? If so, reach out for as much support and love as you can, and allow yourself to fully experience all the feelings that pop up. Examine the successes and challenges of the experience as soon as you are ready for it. Remember that after time passes and you gain perspective, you will feel grateful for the amazing journey that is your life.

Make Yourself a Promise

A new perspective can uplift us and contribute to increased feelings of self-worth. My Promise to Self affirmations might help you, as they have helped me:

  • I promise to keep sharing my work with the world.
  • I promise to keep making my work regardless of the outcome.

We Are Human; We Fail Sometimes

In her book, Self-Compassion, Kristin Neff says, “Remember that all people fail sometimes; it’s part of the human condition. And every failure is an incredibly powerful learning opportunity. Promise yourself that if you do fail, you’ll be kind, gentle and understanding with yourself rather than harshly self-critical.”

Consider that what you label “failure” may have been a closed door that was not meant for you. Your future will offer many new open doors. Believe me, you were born to succeed. We all were.