Mindfulness, Personal

Failure Is Necessary

Have you ever heard the saying about the fish who wanted to fly? Or the bird who wanted to swim? Neither one would ever be able to do what the other could do. Sometimes we need to accept our limitations and lead ourselves down a new path. Sometimes we fail – and that’s okay.

I think there’s a level of acceptance that is okay when we reach a point of exhaustion. When you’ve exhausted all options and continue to hit the wall. Those times when tossing in the towel is truly the only thing you can do. Today, I am talking about a big one. It’s a tough topic that people rarely approach. It’s the subject of failure.

We all want to succeed. In my completely unprofessional opinion, I think a lot of us are wired to strive for success. Sure, this may not be the drive of absolutely everyone, but I would say that it is the minority that does not. And what happens when we don’t succeed? We fail.

When I used to teach swimming lessons we were never allowed to call it “failing” a level. It was an “incomplete” level. They hadn’t achieved all the criteria and therefore it was incomplete…but not a fail. While I see the logic behind this one, we are giving power to the word “fail.” We, as a society, have made “failure” a bad word.


Why is “fail” a bad word? 

Psychology Today says that “everyone hates to fail, but for some people, failing presents such a significant psychological threat to their motivation, to avoid failure exceeds their motivation to succeed.” Pretty intense stuff, right?

In the words of one of my favourite authors, Brené Brown, I challenge you to “fail brilliantly.” As she discussed with Inc., failure is an opportunity to learn. It is “just another word for education.” It’s not easy to fail, but failure is some of the greatest moments we can possibly have.

When we fail, we adjust. If we can’t succeed in a certain sport, we try another sport. Can’t seem to settle into a profession? Try another one. Each and every relationship we have in our lives is another opportunity to learn – whether the relationship was a failure or a success. To me? Failure isn’t something to be ashamed of, it is a moment to embrace, learn from and kick ass in the next chapter of life.

My personal fight with failure

Over the years I have come to accept failures. In my world, a failure is not something to be ashamed of. Instead, my “failures” are my pivot points. They are the moments that molded me into who I am today. As Brené Brown stated, my failures are my education.

Right now, my personal challenge is not to accept my own failures, but to stop rescuing people from theirs. Like I’ve addressed here, failure (and mistakes) are a part of life. We can’t shield those we love or care for from failure, because, like it or not, they will experience it one way or another.

We can guide and assist, hoping that we minimize the failures and challenges of those we love, but ultimately they have to have their own education. They need to experience the crappy feeling of failure for themselves. And then, in their low moments, we can only hope they have a hand to hold and a shoulder to cry on. A friend or lover or family member that picks them up out of the dirt, reassures them and shoves them back into the world. Because we can’t always do it on our own, and nor should we be expected to.

There’s a balance of personal acceptance and having a support system. From a young age I was taught that if something didn’t work out, it meant that something better was coming along. Whether that was true or not, the hopeful mindset always got me through. I picked myself up, dusted myself off, cried about it on my mom’s shoulder and marched back into the game of life.

So next time you’ve hit a wall and your hands are tied, or you’ve exhausted all options and still continue to fail… don’t fight, pivot. It could mean the next best thing is just around the corner.

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