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Published on December 9, 2020

7 Important Lessons You Can Learn From Failure

7 Important Lessons You Can Learn From Failure

Experiencing a major failure is one of the worst things in life. It fills you with negative emotions and leaves you feeling worthless. This is why most people will do anything within their power to avoid failure, even if this means never attempting anything new. Despite the negative energy it comes with, failure has its positive side. Experiencing failure can teach you lessons that you wouldn’t have learned otherwise—you can learn from failure.

Actually, some of the most successful people in the world were only able to attain success because of the lessons they learned from their previous failures.

Have you experienced a major failure recently? Here are 7 important lessons that you can learn from failure.

1. Failure Teaches You That Success Is Never Guaranteed

When trying something new, whether that is starting an online business, applying for your dream job, starting a blog, or even starting a new relationship, everyone wants to achieve success. Unfortunately, this desire for success can sometimes be limiting.

For instance, some people have always wanted to start their own business but they’ve never done it because they aren’t sure whether they’ll achieve success. They get stuck in analysis paralysis and keep waiting for the perfect time, which never comes, unfortunately. Their desire for success actually holds them back from starting their business.

Someone who has experienced failure, on the other hand, understands that success is never guaranteed. Sometimes, failure happens due to factors outside your control.

When you’ve been through a major failure, therefore, you understand that things could go wrong, despite your best efforts. Knowing failure is always a possibility—you learn to not let the fear of failure hold you back.

Having experienced failure pushes you to go after your dreams. It teaches you to keep trying and trying until you get it right. This is what eventually leads to success.

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Like Winston Churchill once said, success is moving from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

2. Failure Teaches You to Embrace Change

When you go through failure, this is basically the universe telling you that there is something you’re not doing right.

For instance, if you fail in college, this failure could be telling you that you didn’t pay enough attention to your studies. Similarly, if your business fails, the failure could be telling you that there are some business factors you did not put into consideration.

As the popular quote commonly attributed to Albert Einstein goes, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If you keep doing things the same way you did before, you’ll still keep on encountering failure.

This means that to overcome your failure, you must change something about your approach. You have to look back at your failure, see what you did wrong, and then decide what changes you need to make to be successful the next time. In so doing, your failure teaches you that the only way to overcome failure is to embrace change.

3. Failure Can Be a Great Source of Motivation

For most people, failure dampens their motivation and makes them feel like quitting. For people with the right mindset, however, failure can be a great source of motivation.

Basketball legend Michael Jordan is a great example of such people. At 15 years old, Michael Jordan wanted so much to be part of his high school basketball team. Unfortunately, his high school coach didn’t think he was worth being part of the team, especially considering he was 5’10’ and couldn’t even dunk.

The realization that he didn’t make the cut really crushed young Michael. He actually went home that evening and cried in his room. Instead of letting this kill his dream, however, Michael was determined to show the coach that he deserved to be on that team.

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He trained as hard as he could, motivated by the pain of not making the team. Eventually, he earned himself a spot on the high school team and went on to become the best basketball player of all time.

This is an example of intrinsic motivation[1] spurred by failure to attain a goal you’re very passionate about.

Just like Michael Jordan, you can turn your failure into a source of motivation. Instead of letting it crush you, let the pain of not achieving your goal push you to work harder until you achieve your dreams.

4. Failure Is Not Final

After experiencing a major failure, it feels like your world has come to an end. You feel like you don’t have it in you to achieve your dreams—or anything worthwhile for that matter. Actually, after going through major failure, some people give up entirely on life.

However, if there’s one thing you can learn from the failures of some of the world’s most successful people, it’s that failure is not final.

When Steve Jobs was kicked out of the company he started in his parent’s garage, it felt like the world had come to an end for him. However, Jobs dusted himself off, started other companies, and was eventually brought back to be the CEO of a struggling Apple. He then went on to transform it into the trillion-dollar company it is today.

Similarly, Walt Disney experienced his first failure after being fired from a newspaper for “not being creative enough.” He then started a company that failed as well. Undeterred, he went on to start the company that bears his name, which became a huge success.

There are several other highly successful people who failed their way to success. What you can learn from their failures is that failure is not the end of the road. It is possible to overcome your failure and go on to achieve greater success than you had ever envisioned.

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Knowing that you can still pick yourself up and become successful again gives you self-confidence, which is one of the most important soft skills for success.[2]

5. Failure Broadens Your Perspective

Very often, we are too immersed in the pursuit of our goals that we forget other important things in our lives. You might be so focused on growing your business that you overwork yourself and forget about other important things in your life, such as your family or even your health.

For instance, you might have decided to run a freelance business to enjoy a better work-life balance and spend more time with your family. With time, however, you realize that you’re spending more time working on your freelance business than you did on an 8 to 5 job.

Even after all your hard work and effort, you realize that your business is not making money, and you decide to shut it down. You begrudgingly accept that your business has failed.

Going through such a failure gives you a chance to look back at things and redefine what’s important for you. This is when you realize that you were too focused on making the business successful that you actually lost sense of the main reason you started the business—to enjoy a better work-life balance.

This period of re-evaluating your life following a major failure allows you to broaden your perspective and focus on other things that might bring you greater happiness and satisfaction than the goals you were chasing previously.

6. Failure Teaches You to Stay Humble

Success is a lousy teacher. Oftentimes, after achieving a series of successes, most people allow the success to get to their heads. It makes you feel invincible, like everything you do was meant to be a success.

Unfortunately, this often leads to arrogance. You start making riskier gambles because you believe that nothing can stop you. Ultimately, this sets you up for failure.

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If you’ve experienced failure, however, you never let success get to your head. Even when things are going well, you know that they could go wrong at any time. This reminds you that you’re human and keeps you humble.

It also makes it easier for you to handle things in case you encounter failure in the future. Dealing with failure is a lot harder if you’ve always achieved success in all your endeavors and arrogantly believe that you can’t fail.

7. Failure Teaches You That Not Every Idea Is Worth Pursuing

Sometimes, you experience failure not because you didn’t give your best effort but because you pursued the wrong idea. When things are going your way, you might get too optimistic and want to act on every idea that pops into your head.

Failure reminds you that not every idea that pops into your head is a great one. Experiencing failure teaches you to filter through your ideas, conduct thorough evaluation, and only act on the ideas that look most promising.

For instance, when Steve Jobs came back to Apple in 1996, the company was literally on its knees. One of the most drastic measures that Jobs took to get back the company to profitability was cutting down on the dozens of product ideas the company was working on.

Jobs brought the focus of the company to a handful of product ideas. This focus on the most promising ideas is what took Apple from a struggling company to one of the biggest companies in the world.

Like Jobs who had experienced major failure when he was ousted from Apple, experiencing failure can teach you that not every idea is worth pursuing.

Wrapping Up

Failure is a painful experience that no one wants to go through. The truth of the matter, however, is that failure is inevitable. As long as you’re attempting something you’ve never done before or continue pursuing your dreams, you cannot completely avoid failure.

Despite the pain that comes with failure, this is not to say that failure doesn’t have its silver lining. If you pay attention, failure can teach you valuable lessons. To help you turn failure into something positive, I have shared with you 7 important lessons that you can learn from failure.

More Articles About Learning From Failure

Featured photo credit: Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Martin Lünendonk

3x Serial Online Entrepreneur

7 Important Lessons You Can Learn From Failure 7 Ways To Get Back Up After A Major Failure

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Last Updated on January 21, 2021

10 Willpower Hacks to Help Achieve Your Goals

10 Willpower Hacks to Help Achieve Your Goals

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“Willpower is essential to the accomplishment of anything worthwhile.” – Brian Tracy

“Just do it.” – Nike

The most important and satisfying things in life usually aren’t the easiest ones.

The good news: In today’s hyper-connected world, we have access to all the information we could want to help us achieve our future goals. We know what foods will make us healthier (would kale or quinoa be as popular without the internet and Dr. Oz? I think not). We can also estimate for ourselves the benefits of starting retirement savings early – and the implications for the lifestyles of our future selves (that boat at 65 means fewer vacations in your 20’s).

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We almost always know what we should do thanks to endless knowledge at our fingertips. But actually doing it is an entirely different kind of challenge. Most of us can relate to that feeling of inertia at the start of a big project, or the struggle to consistently make good, long-term choices for our health, or saving for the future. This mental tug-of-war we experience has evolutionary roots. While knowing this might bring comfort, it doesn’t help solve the problem at hand:

How can we flex our willpower to become better, faster, smarter, and stronger?

The bad news: you can’t Google your way out of this one.

Or can you? A fascinating body of research (much of which you can turn up online through popular press and academic articles) sheds light on how to hack your willpower for better, easier results in all areas of your life. The Willpower Instinct, a great book by Stanford prof Kelly McGonigal, provides a deep dive into these and more topics for anyone keenly interested.

Here’s the short version: we can make the most of our willpower through two types of hacks. First, there are ways to turbo boost your willpower. Second, there are ways to hack the system so you make the best use of whatever (sometimes infinitely modest) willpower you have.

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The following 10 tips draw on both of these toolkits.

1. Slow the heck down.

Most regrettable decisions (the splurge at the mall, the procrastination on the project, the snacks in the break room) happen when one part of our brain effectively hijacks the other. We go into automatic pilot (and unfortunately the pilot in question has a penchant for shoes, Facebook and cookies!). Researchers suggest that we can override this system by charging up the other. That is, slow down and focus on the moment at hand. Think about your breathing. Bring yourself back to this moment in time, feel the compulsion but don’t act on it yet. Try telling yourself, “If this feeling is still just as uncomfortable in 10 minutes, I’ll act on it.” Take a little time to be mindful – then make your decision.

2. Dream of ‘done.’

Imagine yourself handing in the big project, soaking up the appreciation from your colleagues or boss. Or crossing the finish line for the half-marathon you’ve always wanted to run. The rush, the aliveness, the wind on your face, the medal …

That’s a lot more fun and motivating to think about than how much work it is to get out of bed for your long, Sunday morning run!

Re-orient your brain by summoning more motivating feelings than just “not running this morning is more enjoyable than running this morning.” If your goals are meaningful, this will help.

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3. Make your toughest choices first.

Scientists have found that willpower is like a full bathtub that’s drained throughout the day. So, why not start your toughest challenges when you have a full reserve? Get that project started or fit that workout in before you even check your email or have breakfast. Bonus: the high you’ll get from crossing off your hardest ‘to-do’ will help you sail through the rest of your day.

4. Progress = commitment, not a license to backslide.

A lot of times people will ‘cheat’ right after taking positive steps towards their goals. (A common version of this trap is, “I worked out three days in a row, so I deserve this cookie.”) Most of us can relate to this thinking – but it’s totally irrational! We’ll often trick ourselves into setbacks because we think we deserve them, even if we don’t really want them and deep down we know they’ll work against us in the long-run.

How can you counteract this effect? Research finds that if you use your positive streak to recommit (“If I worked out three days this week, I must be really committed to my health and fitness goal!”) rather than an excuse for wiggle room, we don’t take the same cheat options. Cool, right?

5. Meditate.

Meditation is an expressway to better willpower. Bringing your attention to your breathing for 15 minutes, or even five, flexes your willpower muscles by applying discipline to your thinking. It does this by working two mental ‘muscle groups’: first, the set of muscles that notice when your attention is drifting, and second, the set of muscles that bring you back to your task at hand. Over time, even small amounts of meditation will help you build the discipline to easily do what was once hard – like pushing through a long stretch at work.

6. Set mini-goals.

Which seems more doable: committing to three 20 minute runs this week or a half-marathon? Mini-goals are brilliant because they’re easier to achieve and boost your commitment to continuing. When we size them up, we see them as achievable rather than daunting. Each time you succeed at one, it boosts your sense of efficacy and personal integrity: not only are you capable of doing what you set out to do, but you followed through on it. Nice.

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The beauty of mini-goals is that over time, mini-goals – and the momentum you’ve built by doing them – can quickly turn into super-goals. So that half marathon might be more likely to happen, and sooner and more easily than you think!

7. Eat.

Low blood sugar decreases your ability to make tough decisions. If you’re running on empty physically, you’ll also be running on empty mentally. (Yes, this one’s somewhat ironic if your goal involves changing food patterns – but even so, letting your blood sugar drop too far will only sabotage you over time.)

8. Sleep.

Research shows people who don’t get enough sleep have a tough time exercising their willpower. Sleep is critical for a healthy brain – along with just about everything else. So to optimize your willpower muscle, make sure you’re catching your zzz’s.

9. Nix the self-sabotage.

Making yourself feel bad hurts, rather than helps, your willpower efforts. Researchers have found that compassion is a far better strategy than tough love – telling yourself “It’s OK, everyone has setbacks sometimes,” will help you bounce back more quickly than negative self-talk.

10. Take the first hard step.

As a new behavior becomes a habit, it is more natural. You have to use less and less willpower to ‘make it so.’ When you’re starting a new pattern that feels hard, remind yourself that the first steps are truly the hardest. It will probably never feel harder than it does in those first few choices. In the case of repeated behaviors, like exercise or saving money, it takes weeks for new habits to take hold. By that point, the habit will be so ingrained, you’d have to try hard not to do it.

Featured photo credit: Kym Ellis via unsplash.com

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