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Is failure a key part of success?

This article is about how failure is a key part of success. Also, how mental health, resilience, failure and success link together and can affect each other. 

Resilience can help protect you from various mental health conditions, such as anxiety. Resilience can also help offset factors that increase the risk of mental health conditions, such as being bullied or other traumas you have had in past life. 

What do you think of when you hear the word failure? And what do you think of when you hear the word success? 

Most people think of a failure as a negative action but actually, failure can do you good. Failure makes the same goal seem less attainable and distorts your perceptions of your abilities. These seem very negative but the truth is failure can do you good. 

An example of this could be through History. Many successful people frequently fall back on their failures.  For example, Thomas Edison took 1,000 tries until he got the result of a lightbulb. Also, Albert Einstein once said, “Failing allows us to grow, learn and find new opportunities”. This shows that the more you fail, the more you grow.

Failure is such a negative word that it seems strange to suggest that it can be a good thing. Have you ever looked back at your life and thought of the mistakes you made? I know I definitely have: I have failed a test, I have failed in sport, but my life just went on and I grew more resilient as a result. You might relate to the idea of failure in school, which can also be a success.  

Resilience and being able to fail without getting knocked down is also a large part of your mental health. Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties and is often linked with failures. After failing, you need resilience to get back to where you started. 

 Here are some ideas to strengthen your resilience. These points may also help you when you fail as it might give you a boost of self-esteem and courage that you will end up in a better place. 

  1. Don’t try and solve problems with the same thinking that created them. (try and use a variety of different thinking styles so you don’t dig yourself into the same hole) 
  2. Master your emotions before they manage you (make sure you are the one controlling your emotions and don’t let them affect you) 
  3. Stay tough (don’t let people bring you down, stand your ground and don’t let anyone control you or your emotions) 
  4. Keep growing (adapt to new challenges, learn from your past, don’t let previous failures affect your focus or determination to achieve your goals in the future) 
  5. Stay prepared (make sure you are prepared for any emotions that may come to you) 
  6. Pick yourself up, as many times as it takes (don’t let yourself down, always make sure that you bounce back after you have failed)
  7. Reward the small wins (do something you love to reward yourself) 
  8. Keep giving 
  9. Build relationships (maintain good bonds with your family and friends) 
  10. And create your own meaning 

If you think about it, everyone had a failure when they were younger. My first part of my life was mainly all failure, the time I started walking I fell multiple times, in sports I never gained points for my team, and in school rarely gained awards but those failures taught me and gave me stepping stones to success. You can easily link this to yourself by thinking about what failures you have had. This could be to do with school, sports, and also when you were growing up. 

The best piece of advice I would give is: once you have gained those stepping stones, you have what you need to gain success. 

Think about it, if you had not failed at any time in your life would you be where you are now? 

If you dive deeper into what failure actually does, you will find that it really helps. Failure can give you more opportunities but also it can make you stronger. So for example when you don’t get the result you want, you might become more determined to succeed. At first, you probably feel discouraged, frustrated or upset but these feelings don’t last forever. You then get a burst of determination and strength of purpose to try again. Failure makes you more focused on a successful outcome next time. 

However, not all failure is good, especially those you don’t learn from. For example, if a doctor is doing surgery and does something wrong that can lead to serious consequences.

Having a fear of failure can hold you back if it prevents you from following your dreams or having a go at something new. It could even hold back opportunities that could turn into success.  

To overcome this, you have to realise that nothing worthwhile will come easy. Ignore the naysayers because they will be out in full force. Success leaves clues, search for the high and low. Look at it as a chance to face down your fears. Use failure as a learning experience.

Think of a situation where you are scared of failing. Visualize yourself now hitting an obstacle, try to feel the fear, and then see yourself moving forward. Next, try to plan a way to overcome that obstacle and see yourself succeeding despite that obstacle.

Picture a life where you never took risks. Wouldn’t it be boring, dull and unexciting? Risks make us feel alive, gives us courage, determination and improve our lives. Not all risks result in failure; most lead to a more successful outcome. Of course, you wouldn’t know this unless you took risks.  

If you have learnt to succeed your whole life this could impact your mental health in the future by creating unrealistic expectations, being too harsh on yourself and having a perfectionist attitude. 

I want to leave you with this quote that inspired me:

“The one who falls and gets up is so much stronger than the one who never fell.”

This quote is important to me because it shows how strength can be derived from failure, and it taught me to accept failure as I realised that it was only helping me succeed.