At the time, failure feels like the worst possible outcome in a situation. But sometimes it’s not until much later that we learn important lessons from our mistakes and realize that we actually got more out of the experience than we realized. Here’s what to do when you feel like a failure, and why failure can actually be a good thing.
What to Do When You Feel Like a Failure | I Feel Like a Failure in Life
First, I don’t think you can really fail unless you give up completely. Even if you have a temporary setback or mess up, you can keep going toward your goal if it’s something really important to you, and in that way you definitely haven’t failed.
But even if you do call a setback a “failure,” you have to realize failure isn’t the opposite of success; failure is part of success. It’s almost impossible to succeed at a big enough goal unless you first fail a few times along the way. It’s just part of the learning process. But if you go into it knowing that ahead of time, then if you hit some kind of obstacle along the way, you won’t get as discouraged if you know that it’s just part of the process.
“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” – Babe Ruth
On the other hand, maybe your “failure” actually makes you realize that your original goal isn’t actually what you wanted all along.
“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” – Dalai Lama
Setbacks along the way are like a test to determine how badly you want something. Maybe an early obstacle makes you actually realize that no, this isn’t what you want. And then you can change course more quickly and move into doing something that you’re really passionate about.
When I was in a freshman high school, I thought I wanted to be a doctor for a while because it was a “good” job that a lot of my friends wanted to go into, but after failing my first biology exam, I realized that I’m actually more of a creative type and that math and science were not what I was passionate about.
That was the first really important school test I’d ever failed, but it was actually a wonderful stroke of luck, as the Dalai Lama said, because it woke me up to determining what I wanted to do with my life instead of following a path of what other people told me I’d be good at.
In the moment, certain events or worries in our lives feel so pressing and stressful and urgent, when in reality, very few things actually have a long term effect on our lives. If you’re ever stressing over something that you’re not sure is important or not, ask yourself this: “Will this matter when you’re 90 years old?”
Will This Matter When You’re 90 Years Old?
When I was in high school (and even earlier than that), I used to stress out excessively about tests and grades and the like. I’d be bawling my eyes out worried that I was going to fail an exam (and on a few occasions, I actually did). There was something about the culture of AP and honors classes that led students to believe that if you ever failed a test, you were going to fail at life overall.
But that’s not how it works.
At the time, something like our grades in school or first heartbreak or unrequited love might feel soul-crushing and like the world is truly over and there’s no hope for the future, but that’s not true.
Take a step back. Imagine you’re 90 years old and sitting in a nursing home, or swinging on your front porch in rocking chairs with your sweetie. And maybe someone asks you at some point, “What are your biggest regrets in life?”
And as you look back on your life, you realize that the playground bullies or failed high school exams or being fired from a job or getting dumped didn’t matter in the long run nearly as much as they did at the time. If you have any regrets in life at that point, it will probably be over not following your heart, not telling people you love them often enough, or worrying too much about what other people think.
With enough time and distance, even the worst situations or “failures” get put into perspective. Usually things in your life change after a long series of actions taken, rather than a single defining moment or event.
Always remember the big picture, and don’t lose sight of the forest because of the trees. 🙂
Forgive Yourself for Not Being Where You Thought You’d Be By Now
Sometimes when we’re on a long journey toward one of our goals, we can feel discouraged that we haven’t made as much progress as we wanted to.
Acknowledge that you’ve probably made a lot more progress than you realize. Whatever your goal is that you’re working toward, there are so many steps along the way in that journey besides just crossing the finish line at the end.
Ultimately, the journey in the middle is the part that actually transforms your life. Reaching the final goal just marks the end of that particular journey.
So you may not have reached the end point that you’re trying to get to, but you’ve actually accomplished a lot more than you realize already. Just knowing what your goal or dream is in the first place is a major accomplishment. Figuring out what you want out of life is a huge milestone and reason to celebrate!
Next, try actually writing down a list of everything you’ve made progress on so far if you’re feeling discouraged about where you are in your journey. Baby steps count!
And remember that sometimes figuring out what DOESN’T work is just as important as figuring out what does. Just like you can complete a multiple choice test by eliminating all the wrong choices, you can make progress toward a goal by figuring out everything you don’t want to do and the things that don’t work.
Those little setbacks along the way? They’re not signs of failure but simply part of the process that ultimately leads to success. You have to get through the hard stuff first to get to the good stuff later. It’s all part of the process, and every single action you take surrounding your goal – whether it “fails” or succeeds – is actually helping you get closer to determining what you want out of life and doing so successfully.
Next, realize that things often take a lot longer than we anticipate. That’s ok. If your goal is to be happy, for example, whether that takes you one year or the rest of your life isn’t important – the important part is that you take small steps forward every day and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Your speed doesn’t matter. Forward is forward. 😃
So if you’re not quite where you wanted to be at this point in your life, give yourself a little grace and breathing room to say that every moment of your life has worked out to bring you to this one moment in the present where you’re making exciting choices about your future.
It may not feel like it, but sometimes a perceived failure can be the best thing that’s ever happened to you.
Forgive yourself the way you forgive your loved ones for their imperfections. It doesn’t matter how long your individual journey takes as long as you don’t give up. 🙂