Learning How to Succeed Through Failure
Updated: Mar 13
Most of us can relate to feeling like a failure at one time or another or being afraid to try something because we might fail. This is an internal barrier to achieving our goals.
I recently read Pema Chodron’s commencement address to the 2014 graduating class of Naropa University. Her speech was based on a quote by Samuel Beckett, “Fail. Fail again. Fail better.” Chodron says failure “feels very raw.” This rawness is what keeps us afraid of failing. We don’t like to feel raw. We don’t like to feel vulnerable. However, in our vulnerability is where we have access to our greatest opportunities for personal growth.
When we are afraid to fail, that fear is communicating an important message: that this means something to us. If we fail at something that is very important to us, it will hurt and we will feel like a failure. If this happens often enough, we identify with being a failure; it can become a fixed belief that prevents us from achieving our goals.
The fact is, failing is a part of the learning process. It is a part of skill building, strength building, and resiliency building.
The next time you catch yourself saying, “I am a failure”, pause, and allow yourself to say, “I am not a failure. I FEEL like a failure. I can learn from this”.
Get curious and ask yourself, “What happened to make me feel like a failure?” Allow yourself to sit with the feeling of failing, what caused it, and what you can do next time for a different outcome. This is not the time to blame yourself. Be kind to yourself when you have this internal conversation.
When you learn how to succeed through your failures, failing and trying again as many times as you need to, you gain experience, skill, and wisdom that leads you to living at your fullest potential.
Do you have a certain way of thinking about failure that helps you get up and try again? You can share your ideas below. I would love to hear about them and they may help others when they are struggling.
Bradi Bergesen is a licensed independent clinical social worker using online video therapy to connect with adults throughout the state of Washington to help them live at their fullest potential.