Looking back on the days of the past, we can clearly spot our failures. The glaring recollection of falling short is not invisible to us. Some people see it as areas in their lives to improve on. They consider the possibilities of a better outcome, take notes, and continue on with their journey.
Others—well, they remain stuck in the past. The glare apparently becomes so bright it blinds them of their potential. They don’t consider what they could do if they only tried.
Most of us fall into either one of these two camps. And whether we choose to accept it or not, the idea of failing should invoke a sense of optimism.
Falling Short Teaches You How to Succeed
You will never know how to win without losing at some point. Living a life without any losses is a myth that has been debunked forever. But that doesn’t stop us from comparing ourselves to people we assume have always won.
From all we can tell, they woke up one morning with a knack for winning. What we forget to recognize is the road that got them there. It was a road riddled with potholes and nails. The steep declines were crazy.
This is why we have to change the way we view success. If the end goal isn’t to progress, you’re doing it wrong. You’re ultimately setting yourself up for a life of bad failure.
This is when you fail with no purpose at all.
In this phase, the only important pursuit is fitting into the mold we’ve noticed around us. And that doesn’t lead anywhere, because we abandon ourselves in the process.
Ask any successful person and they’ll tell you. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. J.K. Rowling, the author of the notorious Harry Potter novels, heard a list of “no”s before she heard “yes.”
But they didn’t give up, even though it was tough. They used failure as a launching pad to propel them forward.
Falling Short Strengthens Your Endurance
As we all know, it’s not as simple as ‘fail and move on.’ It definitely isn’t as easy as some people make it. It hurts—bad. But it does something that quitting doesn’t.
Failure gives you the endurance to withstand whatever happens next.
Now I don’t know about you, but the list of shortcomings is long for me. If I sat all day long thinking about how bad I was at that one thing, or how stupid of a choice that was, I’d probably blow a fuse in my brain.
Yet, we do this so often in our culture. Rather than moving on from where we went wrong and considering how to do it right the next time, we either give up or classify ourselves as the biggest failures who ever walked the planet.
Because we see failure as negative, we associate ourselves in the same light. One mistake and we’re done, no point of moving forward. But is that really what falling short means, that you will never amount to anything — ever — because you failed at something? I think not.
Failure is a fire-lighter.
As with a ton of other things, we often neglect to recognize the important tool of self-forgiveness. We tend to be harder on ourselves than we should be, especially when comparing ourselves to people around us.
Trying to measure up to someone who is completely different from us, we land in a state of recurring frustration that leads to headaches and depression.
Start by giving yourself some time to acknowledge your amazing qualities.
Identifying what you’re good at in your free time takes your mind off of the potentially harmful mindset of focusing on what you didn’t do.
Realize that you aren’t perfect—none of us are. We are going to make mistakes. A great leader will say this. But they will also add another crucial point: the key is to learn from those mistakes.
Gather the data on what caused you to fall short. The biggest mistake you can make is doing the work and not identify what went wrong, what steps were taken in the wrong direction.
If you want to make progress, learn to give yourself some slack.
Respecting the Process
There’s this thing called the process, and it’s kind of important. The problem is that we usually hear that word but leave with a different meaning of it.
Hearing the success stories out there in the world, our brains become used to contemplating only on the wins.
Now I’m not saying you should go into anything assuming you’re going to lose. But I am proposing the idea that launching out into whatever you’re doing with the mentality that this is about growth…changes the game for good.
You no longer prioritize being on par with the other guy or gal. Instead, you’ve redefined what the process is in your mind. It’s a journey of ups and downs.
The key is taking note of those slumps in an effort to minimize their chances of happening again. When we respect the process, we enhance our capabilities of growing closer towards our desired goals.
Embracing the Challenge
As we analyze the possibilities around us, so much of it is ours for the taking. We can’t rely on people to hold our hands throughout everything we will ever do. That can be good, but it also can be crippling to our growth.
When a parent teaches their child how to ride a bike, they will eventually have to remove their pushing hand. The child, eager to ride alone, can’t wait to glide through the streets without a care in the world.
It won’t happen without failure, though. There will be some nasty spills, some rough scars. But it will make us stronger. It will take us to higher levels of progress. And, in the end, it will light a fire within us that will never go out.
Kevin Horton is a 24-year-old photographer, student, modest bookworm, and wanna-be web developer with a new-found love for writing. He writes helpful words about creativity, productivity, and the enjoyably simple life.
Image courtesy of Aziz Acharki.