Embracing Failure as a Learning Experience

When Thomas Edison was questioned about his hundreds of failed attempts to create the light bulb his answer was that he hadn’t failed, he had just found hundreds of ways that didn’t work. This is how successful people think.

To fail, failure, failing are all words that conjure up negative connotations so it may seem odd to suggest that failing can actually be positive. Many people allow failure to hold them back instead of reframing the failed experience and thinking of it as a growth and learning experience.

There are lots of benefits that come from failing now and again. Failure gives us a chance to gain compassion, humility, wisdom, courage and opportunity as well as encouraging us to be more tolerant and compassionate. According to Dr. Jennifer Kromberg,”Examining when we fall short of our expectations allows us to gain knowledge and perspective that would not have been learned otherwise. The courage to take on new and calculated risks is gained by increasing our tolerance to the uncomfortable feelings that stem from rejection and failure.”

It’s all about learning from our mistakes and reframing our failures and losses into potential for growth. My two favorite coaching questions in this regard are:

  1. What am I learning?
  2. What am I learning about myself?

These questions allow us to constantly reframe and re-evaluate every situation or experience whether positive or negative.

Accepting failure as part of the learning process and redefining it as experience, experimentation and life lessons is a great start. Throw in some courage and compassion, pick yourself up and try again. This is what success is.

Truman Capote’s quote rings true:

“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”

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