You can categorize failure any way you’d like: A malfunction of daily life, the flop of a once brilliant idea, the breakdown of a concept you believed in, but it’s all the same. This didn’t work. Depending on how badly it didn’t work, you could still be cringing ten years from now.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Many of us spend so much time focusing on the catastrophe itself, we’re unable to step back and see these little fiascos for what they are: Tiny moments where we manufacture our lives. It’s like our life is an assembly line made up of experiences instead of machine parts. You can’t think of your disasters as failures because they are the very essence of maturity. They usher us in to the era of good decision making and wisdom.
Today, our newsfeeds are full of benchmark lists defining our arrival into adulthood or motherhood or senior executive status. We’re so easily led to believe that children or six figure accounts mean achievement. Just because you can have children and succeed at a job doesn’t mean you’ve grown up.
Failures can shatter your heart, but they’ll give you an astute complexity in return. You can spend a lifetime trying to hide from them, but your life will not be complete until you’ve handled these shared dilemmas.
Here are four failures that teach very necessary lessons:
Failure No. 1: You got ugly.
When breaking up with him, when quitting, when you were tired, angry, hurt — it doesn’t matter the reason why. You didn’t exhibit grace when you could have. You said things you shouldn’t, were childish and you fought dirty. You brought a little Springer to your charming life, didn’t you? What you learned here (or are learning now) is that anger doesn’t get to drive in the front seat, no matter how upset you are. We all need to recognize the devil inside, if only to understand her better… and to remember to lock the door so she can’t get back out.
Failure No. 2: You went back.
What you went back to doesn’t matter. You had a moment of self-doubt or weakness or sentimentality. You pressed the replay button and shortly thereafter was reminded of why you quit in the first place. It’s a tough lesson involving forgiveness and re-opening wounds. Then pride steps in and you have to admit your mistake while making an awkward exit. The real triumph in the end is learning to trust yourself. There was a reason you left. Even if the good times were really amazing, they don’t overshadow the bad but you can turn this into a victory by learning to have confidence in your decisions.
You can’t think of your disasters as failures because they are the very essence of maturity. They usher us in to the era of good decision making and wisdom.
Failure No. 3: You forgot where you came from.
Weren’t you raised better? Well, yes. We were. However, at some point you were caught up in the moment and things got a little wild. It happens to the best of us, however, our mothers and aunts and grandmothers taught us better. A woman might not always wear a tiara, but the attributes of a lady? We can wear those like a crown and they go with every outfit in the closet. There’s certainly something delicious about our inner wild child, but restraining her is a virtue all its own and it’s a skill best perfected over time. However, there’s no denying the secret delight of knowing you have the potential to shake it up… if you really want to.
Failures can shatter your heart, but they’ll give you an astute complexity in return.
Failure No. 4: You didn’t listen.
The advice could come from anyone but you didn’t take it and the “I told you so” moment is upon you. You didn’t need someone to stand in front of you and say the words because you already knew and now you’re frustrated with yourself. All you can do is shake your head. Well that, and listen next time. Life isn’t about being able to conquer the world all on your own, it’s about knowing when you need a hand. Now you understand the value of experience and more importantly, the cost of not heeding it.
The point of all of your mistakes is twofold, really. Not only do you need to evolve as a person, but there’s a generation of woman behind you who are as enthusiastic and silly as you were once upon a time. They’ll have their own failures and when they do, they’ll need someone to commiserate with.
So, if nothing else, think of your lifecycle of blunders as on-the-job-training. I promise it will come in handy.
What is a perceived failure that you’ve learned from?
Image via Sarah Kehoe for Darling Issue No. 19