Failing in Life – The Path to Success?

Posted September 11, 2013 by Rebecca Niziol in On the Ladder
fear of failure

Getting a big fat “F” in life is something we, as go-getters, avoid most. No one wants to fail. It comes with a heavy dose of embarrassment, feeling not good enough, and usually resignation and apathy set in soon after.

When I ask people what their biggest fear is, “failure” is usually at the top of the list. Since our systems are set up in a way to keep us safe and comfortable (alive), we were given defense mechanisms that help us to avoid the things we fear most. Except, in a society where we are now expected to create, innovate, connect, and inspire… surviving by merely avoiding fear isn’t going to cut it. Avoiding failure is like trying to be perfect, it’s an exhausting and pointless pursuit.

Failing is one of the biggest blessings in disguise. Admit it! That failed relationship, bankrupt business start up, or disastrous hobby probably taught you a lot more about yourself and the world around you then “good times.” It is in the darker moments that we really find out who we are, what we want, and how we want to make an impact on our world. It is in those moments we find out what courage is.

You can learn a lot about someone or yourself by asking these questions:

How do you define success?

How do you define failure?

When you look clearly at your definitions, you might notice they are outdated. More importantly, they might be limiting you in some way. How you define and measure your success and failure greatly changes the way you live your life. I suggest you make sure your definition is truly your own, it is not something someone else told you or a belief society manipulated you into thinking. You decide what success and failure are for you.

Here are some alternative thoughts on success and failure:

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” – Paulo Coelho

“Life is full of screwups. You’re supposed to fail sometimes. It’s a required part of the human existence.” – Sarah Dessen

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

“Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it.” – Oprah Winfrey

This one from Randy Pausch (The Last Lecture) is one of my favorites:

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”

Your parents, spouse, boss, or God isn’t going to slap an A+ on your tombstone for following “The Rules of Life.” Only you can truly measure your success in life. Only you can put the label of failure onto an experience, relationship, or yourself. Don’t let your fear of failure limit your ability to live your life the way you want. Brene Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, and author of Daring Greatly poses a great question:

“What’s worth doing even if I fail?”

There’s something you want so badly, you’re willing to go for it. You are willing to face your fear with courage. Figure out what things are worth failing for. They are your guideposts through life. They will lead you to success.

Enjoy a few failures along the way!

About the Author

Rebecca Niziol

Rebecca Niziol, ELI-MP, is many things: a life coach, yoga teacher, dancer, event planner, connection catalyst, and your new best friend. Her mission is to empower others to live the authentic life of their dreams. After years of traveling North America and Europe, she is happy to have found a home and community in Chicago.