What are we taught about what failure means? Is failure something you’ve been taught to avoid?  What stories have you told yourself about your own failures? What power does failure have over you?  Could you learn to welcome failure? Could you understand how failure fits into your process of achieving a goal? Could you learn how failure is beneficial to creating?

A message that I was told many times when I was young was “Do it right the first time.”  As I grew up and started “adulting”, this phrase mutated itself into “If you can’t do it right the first time then it isn’t worth doing.”  This mutated message was paralyzing. I didn’t want to even try if I couldn’t do it right.  I wanted to avoid failing at anything, so I never attempted anything. I didn’t even want to start something if I thought I was going to fail.

It took me time, reflection and coaching to understand the impact that the original phrase had and the continued impact of the mutated phrase.  And guess what, I am still learning and evolving my relationship to failure and how I react to it.  In this process I have decided that I want to be friends with failure. I want to welcome failure into my life as part of my process. I want to say… “Hey I failed… Cool! Now what?  What can I try next?”

I have even started to look back at my failures, on purpose and with the intent to understand.  I look back at my failures objectively.   I don’t dwell on them or wallow in how everything went wrong.  And believe me, it has taken a lot of practice to be able to look at my failures without feeling shame and sadness.  I want to be able to learn from my failure.  Before I knew how to do this, my failures had the power to paralyze me.  I decided I didn’t want to give them that power any more. I learned how to look at my failures and say “I failed, and I kept going.”

You get to decide what failure means. You get to decide if failure will paralyze you or be a road bump or be an opportunity.  You get to decide how you will react and how you will understand your failures.  Learning how to evaluate and move forward from my failures is a skill that I am continually practicing because it means that I am learning and growing. 

Whenever you feel ready, I encourage you to use the questions at the beginning of this article to help you learn about your relationship to failure and how it is impacting you.  

For more on why failure is awesome, enjoy this video episode!