You remember it, don’t you?
The first time you failed at something.
Maybe it was an abysmal score on a test. Or maybe you didn’t make the final cut for your basketball team. Or perhaps you didn’t get the lead role in the school play.
Whatever the case may be, you certainly remember feeling as if your entire world was collapsing into itself. You put in a ton of extra time and effort, even sacrificing your well being at times, and it still wasn’t enough.
You failed. And there’s nothing you could have done afterwards to change that. Your teacher wouldn’t let you retake the test. Your coach wouldn’t give you one more shot. Your director had already found his best choice for the starring role.
To your younger self, realizing that you fell short of your goals probably felt like the end of the world. Like you could never do better. Like you were doomed to live a life of failure. Hopefully, as an adult, you realize this isn’t the case.
By this time in your life, you’ve probably failed numerous times. And you’re still here, right?
As you grew older and more mature, you started to see that it’s not failure that defines you, but it’s how you react to it and what you learn from it that makes you who you are.
Whenever you fall short of your goals, look to the lesson that life is teaching you.
7 Powerful Lessons Failure Can Teach Us
Be an Active Participant in Life
In its simplest terms, there are two ways to live life: You can either be actively engaged with the world throughout every waking moment, or you can passively watch the world go by and let opportunities slip through your fingers.
If you choose to live passively, you’ll never fail at anything. But you’ll also never succeed, either. You’ll simply just…exist. You’ll wake up, go through the motions in order to survive, go to bed, rinse, and repeat until the day comes that you don’t wake up.
On the other hand, if you live an active life, you’ll surely experience ups and downs along the way – but you’ll truly be living. William Faulkner once wrote, “Between grief and nothing, I will take grief.” Putting yourself “out there,” even if it means exposing yourself to the possibility of failure, is a much better way to spend your time on Earth.
Waiting Gets You Nowhere
There are those of us who actively live, and those of us who passively let life go by – and then there are those of us who live in-between these two extremes.
These are the people who desperately want to succeed in life, but live under the delusion that there will always be time to do so. They never feel as if they are “ready” to take that next step toward success, and in doing so ultimately end up living a passive existence.
Actor Hugh Laurie says, “There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now.” While these people may never outright fail at anything they set out to accomplish, they fail in a much more profound area: seizing the day. Unfortunately, by the time they realize they’ve failed to take advantage of their time, it’s much too late.
Take Calculated Risks
Though you may never truly be “ready” for anything in life, you certainly can maximize your potential for success by putting your all into everything you do.
Any progress you make in life starts with an analysis of your current situation. Golfer Ernie Els once said, “You have to know how to read your lie and take a calculated risk when you hit out of the rough.”
When we fall short of our goals, it’s often because we had not truly understood where we were starting from, and where we wanted to end up.
Prepare for Anything
Benjamin Franklin said it best: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Going along with the last point, the possibility of failure should always be in the back of your mind whenever venturing toward a certain goal. We don’t live in a vacuum. Things rarely go as planned; Murphy’s Law will see to that.
A lot of the time, failure occurs because we didn’t anticipate a specific occurrence and didn’t prepare a Plan B. We not only need to analyze our current situation when setting out to reach a goal, but we also need to be ready when events don’t unravel as perfectly as we thought they would.
Fear is Almost Always Irrational
We’ve all heard the stories of Michael Jordan not making his high school basketball team the first time he tried out. Anyone who’s seen him play has seen him miss numerous shots, sometimes when the game is on the line.
Sure, in those instances, Jordan was probably hurting. But do you think he really cares about any of those failures now?
The only time failure actually turns out as bad as you anticipate it will is when you let it stop you. If you quit trying to reach a goal, the last thing you’ll remember about the venture is how bad you failed.
If you keep pressing forward and eventually experience success, the pain you felt from previously falling short will only be a distant memory.
Failures are Setbacks, Not Roadblocks
Throughout grade school, you faced many “do or die” moments – times when you probably thought failing meant your life would be completely derailed and you’d end up living on the street. Or, at least, that’s how you were conditioned to feel at the time.
In the real world, failure is rarely the end of times. It may be the end of a chapter of your life, but you’ll almost always have the chance to add more to the story.
Think about when you’re driving. If a road you normally take is closed, do you just turn around and go home? That would make no sense; there’s always another way.
The same goes for the pathway to success. You might not take the exact route you planned on taking, but as long as you reach your goal, does it really matter how many detours you had to take?
Failure is Necessary to Enjoy Success
The most important idea failure can teach you is that it’s a necessity in life. If you’ve never felt the bitter sting of defeat, then you can never truly appreciate the thrill of victory.
If success were just handed to you, you’d remain indifferent to its importance. It’s only when you work hard to achieve success that you understand the significance of your efforts.
When you fall short of your goals, you have two main options: Let failure debilitate you and hold you back from future endeavors, or let it inspire you to work harder than you ever have before in search of your goals.
Where you go from there is up to you.
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