When you experience failure, and you will, it is not the failure itself that ultimately matters. What matters most is what you learned from the failure, and what action you took to overcome it.
As I reflect back on my own failure moments, a number of lessons come to mind that will remain with me for a lifetime. While failure is truly relative and situational, these lessons will apply to anyone that has failed. They serve as helpful reminders that make us stronger and more capable of handling whatever setbacks come our way in the future.
Here are four failure lessons that I have found particularly helpful:
1. Strength of Will: A moment of failure is one where one’s “will” is tested. Does failing deflate your desire or drive to achieve something, or does it fuel your fire even more to work harder, commit more energy, and push towards a goal? If you are like me, you choose the latter. You use the experience as motivation, you strengthen your will to succeed. You get stronger, and move on from the failure more swiftly.
2. Refined Discipline: Achievement, regardless of how big the goal, takes discipline. The ability to control your behavior when faced with a variety of unexpected influences or temptations is critical to success. Each failure makes you reflect on your discipline and think about how it might be refined to avoid the possibility of future failure. How can you better handle the curve balls that come your way during the process of success? Failing teaches us to be more disciplined in that process by helping us to know what works and what does not work.
3. Courage Trumps Fear: For most people, failure moments only amplify the overarching fear that people have of failing. When failure happens, it is easy for the fear of failure to increase. Take the safe route. Don’t make a mistake or it will hurt. However, the lesson we learn from failure is that the more courage we have to overcome it and move on the less fear can creep into our heads and hold us back. Courage is the slayer of fear. Courage allows us to regroup, prioritize what is next, and continue on our success journey without fear of a repeat failure.
4. True Relationships Are Revealed: You might wonder why I have included this one as it relates to failure lessons. But, this is a big one in my view. When you are experiencing great success, it seems that your relationships also tend to grow and you naturally attract more people into your own professional and personal network. However, when the chips are down, your “true” relationships are revealed by those that stand with you. Where does your encouragement come from, and who is by your side to quickly offer support (and sometimes defense) related to the failure? Where are your true relationships? If you really think you have a good relationship with someone, and you feel a sense of trust with that person, what happens in moments of failure will clearly show you how real and meaningful that relationship really is. Trust me, it is enlightening and I encourage you to reflect on this regarding past failures. We as humans rely heavily on our relationships to feed our strength of will, to build our courage, and to hold us accountable for maintaining our stated discipline. Having true relationships around you can make all the difference in handling failure.