Why You Should Treat Failure as a Learning Opportunity

failure feedback learning opportunity

There is a saying that goes, ‘the only way to avoid failure is to not try.’ But just ask any elderly people, and they are likely to list inaction as one of their life’s biggest regrets. So why are most people afraid to take risks when failure is nothing more than valuable feedback?

It could be because the word failure still has a negative stigma surrounding it, especially in more conservative societies.

The good news? You can change your perception of what failure means by treating each setback as a learning opportunity.

What Exactly is Failure?

Fail. Fail differently. Pick yourself up and move on, whether towards the original goal(s) or something else.

The general meaning of the word failure is ‘falling short of achieving your goals’.

Let’s say you wanted to reduce your body fat percentage from 20% to 15% within 30 days but ended up at 17%. This means that you have missed your target by 2%. How many people do you think would give up as a result? Is it really a failure if you have given your best?

In our opinion, failure is a word just like any other. It is your interpretation of the word that ultimately matters.

Failure hurts, but so does a toothache. While you can easily visit your dentist to get your toothache fixed, psychological scars are harder to mend. In fact, these invisible scars have a tendency to linger long after the event has passed, maybe even forever.

Something that happened a decade ago may also feel like it happened just last week, and it is this faulty perception of time that people tend to get trapped in.

But do you know that your memory is fallible at best?

You cannot cognitively reconstruct 100% of what actually happened simply because the human brain is unable to capture, process, and store everything that occurred. Your brain can only partially reconstruct an event, and even then, it will be biased and incomplete.

One way to test this is to write down your recollection of a past event and compare it to the original e.g. a recorded video. You will be surprised how different your current memory of the actual event is.

Why You Should Actively Pursue Failure

The path to greatness is often paved with painful failures.

The ability to embrace failure is one that is sorely missing in many people’s life though hopefully not yours.

The reason?

Failure is a great teacher. Failure is how we make sense of what is going right versus what is going wrong, enabling us to make the necessary adjustments in moving forward.

We also tend to learn more from falls than we do from our victories, and it is these lessons that propel us forward. Making mistakes is not a bad thing. Repeating the same mistake(s), however, is insanity.

This is what makes failure possibly the best tool that one has towards being successful in life. Progress is not the absence of failure but rather a result of failure, often many times. 

There Is a Lesson in Every Failure

The problem you likely face, and the reason why so few can reinvent themselves through significant stretches of time, is because you dread failure. Surprisingly, the opposite is true as well for some people – they dread success.

It is a lot simpler to set a sensible objective, accomplish it, and soak in all the praise afterward. Failures, on the other hand, are rarely celebrated or discussed even though they tend to be life-changing.

If you choose to view your life within the context of successes and failures, then suffice to say you have failed. This is because you have disengaged from the actual cycle, worrying more about the status quo than making meaningful progress.

All successful people share this trait. These people couldn’t care less about failing or being seen as successful, focusing only on how close they are to realizing their goals.

You cannot find anything new without coming up short. You cannot investigate different ways of doing things without falling flat. 

Failure is simply a misconception. It exists only for those who are concerned about not failing.

3 Ways to Tolerate Failures Better

1. You Have to Accept It as a Part of Life

Your failure may be due to things outside of your control. The circumstances may have gone against you. Yet, rather than harping on those things, you need to focus on how to move forward despite your disappointment.

Worry not about what is outside your control/influence, and focus instead on those things that you can control/influence. For example, we often get mad when others behave erratically on the road even though it’s outside our control. This response is not only irrational but also a waste of your valuable time.

The saying that you learn from failure may appear banal to you, but this doesn’t diminish its value. Disappointments offer you the chance to learn and recompose yourself for the next round, making you better prepared to face whatever comes next.

2. Your Effort Is Never Wasted

It is only with hindsight that you can view your efforts as something valuable and not a waste.

You do not, however, have this privilege when you are caught up in a particularly tense situation where your next decision(s) could determine your success or failure.

Each step that you take, no matter how small, successful, or painful, is another step towards achieving your goals. You will rarely regret something that you did versus something that you didn’t do.

Don’t believe us?

Ask yourself how many times have you regretted action compared to inaction thus far in your life. This should give you an idea of your personality and how you view successes and failures.

3. Failure Does Not Define You as a Person

Adopt a development mentality where you don’t view your ability as something stale but as something you can create, sustain, and reinforce.

Failure is almost always a necessity to reaching your important goals, no matter how well laid out your plan was.

What doesn’t break you makes you stronger and more grounded. It helps build character, resilience, and a never-give-up attitude that you can use throughout your life, professionally and personally.