The upside of failure


If there’s one thing certain about life, it’s that life is always uncertain. While you may experience days filled with joy, hope and anticipation, you may also face many others with sadness, hardship, worry and failure. I spend a lot of time talking with people about failure, in all of its many forms. And although it’s often viewed through a negative lens, that’s not always the best way to look at it. In fact, I believe that failure can:

  • Strengthen. No doubt you’ve heard the saying that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. While it’s true that difficult experiences can be damaging and exhausting, it’s important to also view these experiences as part of an improvement process. Keep in mind that failure can eliminate things that hold you back, making it possible to build a stronger foundation.
  • Educate. Some lessons are harder to learn than others, especially when they come with painful circumstances. If you don’t learn from your mistakes and failures, they maintain a sense of power over you. That’s why, when you fail, it’s important to take ownership of your decisions. Admit that you were wrong, examine what you could have done differently – and make a better choice going forward.
  • Inspire. There’s nothing like failure to help you see things in a new light. Instead of dwelling on your shortcomings, use the experience to think differently and try new things – even if it makes you uncomfortable. This is also a great time to gather inspiration from others. Find people that you admire and emulate them.
  • Define your tribe. It’s easy to be a great friend when everything is going well. But when times are tough, your true friends rise to the surface. That’s when you need to take note of who shows up, and then continue to invest in those people. If you’ve lost friends as a result of your failures, take heart. Use the experience to form new friendships with people who will have your back – no matter what.

Failure is never easy to accept. But there’s hope for you, regardless of your struggles. Remember that despite what you think or what others tell you, your mistakes and failures do not define you. You can take control of the situation, temper your reaction and enact changes to ensure that you don’t repeat the same mistakes.

David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.