I remember laying on my back on the ground in the wilderness with blood coming out of my head while I laughed at myself. It was pitch black, I was all alone, and I had just smacked myself in the head with a rock while trying to hang my food in a tree on my first ever solo backpacking trip. The amount of things that went wrong on that trip are abundant. I failed a lot. But that trip taught me more about myself than almost any other trip I’ve ever been on.
If I look back at all of the lessons I’ve learned about life, business, motherhood, relationships, etc., I find one common element: failure. I fail all the time. It’s how I learn. But failure has such a negative connotation, and I think it’s important to destigmatize failure. Failure means you tried something, it means you’re in the arena, it means you’re learning, and it means you’re taking risks. Those who fail are living. Which is why I think we should all be failing more often.
Being Willing to Fail Shows Courage
If you can’t think of a few stories about your own failures, then you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. Failure is human, and it’s something we all do before we succeed. Babies fall before learning to walk. You’ll miss a ton of shots in basketball before learning to shoot a free throw. I’ll kill a ton of plants before learning what they need to grow. Sure, I’d avoid failure if I’d never tried gardening, but then I wouldn’t have a hobby that fills me with happiness and positivity every day.
Now, shooting a basketball and failing involves a lot less courage than changing a career path, for instance. One has a lot more at stake than the other. However, it’s true that there’s great reward with great risk. The point is that your failures don’t prove you’re a failure. Quite the opposite. Your failures show you are brave, you are living, you are learning, and you are pushing yourself.
Those who aren’t failing aren’t pushing themselves out of their comfort zone.
A Failure Activity
In an effort to change the way you think about your failures, try this activity. In an effort to remove shame from past failures and to reframe how you look at failing, change the story surrounding the things you’ve tried and failed at.
Write down five things you’ve failed at. Next to it, reframe it. Change the story. Think about the risk you took in that failure, what you learned, and how that failure changed you for the better. Here’s an example:
I failed at 75 Hard:
I tried a mental toughness challenge that I thought would be a fun challenge for me. I tried something that was out of my comfort zone and took a risk, and learned that habits are gradual and that it was unrealistic for my lifestyle.
I failed to meal prep this week:
When I meal prep, all of us tend to eat better, and I save a lot of time. I didn’t do that this week. I learned that I have to allot more time over the weekend to meal prep, and that homeschooling makes these simple tasks even harder. That’s okay, I need to give myself some grace and not make comparisons.
I failed my marriage:
This one is heavy. I am divorced, and my divorce was really hard on me for a while. However, I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned that sometimes two people are better apart and that both of our lives and our children’s lives are truly much better this way.
I failed at selling a product:
My business is full of things I’ve tried and failed at. I’ve launched a lot of products that didn’t sell, and that fear of failure paralyzes me sometimes. But with each failed product, I also have an example of a product that was successful. My failed products show that I’ve taken risks and that I’m in the arena. That I was brave in putting something out in the world that people might not like. I wouldn’t have my successful products without my failed ones.
I failed at limiting screen time for my kids:
I don’t like when my kids have too much time with iPads or the television. But lately they have a lot more screen time. I’ve learned that homeschooling is hard for a lot of us, and that I need to give myself grace while I navigate teaching them, parenting them, and running my business from home. I’ve learned sometimes you have to pick your battles.
Each of my failures has a story behind it, something I learn, a risk I’ve taken, an example of my bravery. My failures are important because they often lead to better things. I know what works because I know what doesn’t work. Sometimes the only thing I take from a failure is that I need to do better or try something else, but that’s valuable too.
So next time you think about your failures, think about how they’ve shaped you. How you can learn from them. How they prove you’re out there trying your best, taking risks, and growing.
We should all be failing more.
Give me an example of one of your failures and how it changed things for the better.