Failing forward


Failure as a fast track to success

When life doesn’t turn out how we hoped, is there a way back, or perhaps forward?

In my last few posts I have discussed the acceptance of failure as a learning opportunity and the benefits it provides as a tool for personal growth. This is the principal of failing forward: accepting failure as a stepping stone to success.

Failing forward is about how you accept and use the results to better apply yourself to achieving what you want. It no longer seems possible to avoid failing simply by being conscientious and working hard – the success formula our parents so heavily relied upon.

Failure comes in degrees. The differences between total loss and a minor setback, death and illness, injury and fatigue are distinctions of degree, not kind. You can look at failure differently. Because it will pay off in the form of learning and growth. This is failing forward.

Learning is error-driven. Failure grabs our attention. It has implications for our development as fulfilled and purposeful individuals. It can initiate a search for meaning, a shift from pursuing the kind of happiness that flares briefly, to the kind that endures.

Achievement is the area where we often put ourselves under the most pressure. Understanding what achievement is or what level we are to attain but a certain time can cause feelings of uncertainty and failure. Disproportionately valued and often conflated with material success. But other dimensions actually have a potentially higher payoff. We easily habituate to material things, and they quickly stop making us happy. Other less tangible values can provide the contentment we seek.

And so the once autonomous striver, rowing alone, is forced to throw that old life over the side. A new unifying principle coalesces around some ‘higher purpose’ and the new life feels like an improvement. Failure does lead, in a roundabout way, to happiness.


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