I’ve asked myself that question my whole life. I think I’ve probably asked you a few times as well. This is one of those lifelong journey questions that has propelled me forward since I was little. That is the upside to this question.
The downside is that even though it inspires me to push beyond my boundaries, many times it as left me flat on my ass because reality is, sometimes we fail. But what if we could fail forward?
As my mother always said, “It’s not how many times you fall down. What’s important is how many times you get back up.”
Here is a little secret I’ve never really told anyone (just between me and you). I didn’t have the easiest childhood. We moved every two years and I went to nine different schools all across the country. When I was a little girl, and a dramatic situation happened or when I tried something that I failed greatly at, I would say to myself, “This is only going to make me stronger. And when something even bigger happens when I get older, I will be ready to handle it.”
I have no idea why I thought that from such a young age but when I was 26 years old and got cancer for the first time, I had an attitude that was ready to take on the challenge with no hesitation. That strength has carried me though three other cancers and two autoimmune diseases.
Why? Because every time I failed at something or I got sick, it just made me stronger and more determined to figured out the why, when, and what to do about it and get back in there and figure out what I need to do.
It doesn’t have to be illness. Here are a few more things that I’ve failed at in epic ways which turned into blessings:
- I’ve been fired from a job
- Been almost completely broke with no income
- Couldn’t control my body issues with weight gain and loss
- Struggled with my internal addict who was controlling my life
- Got repeatedly sick after doing everything ‘right’
What I realized was that each time I hit an epic fail, it was as if the Universe was conspiring to point me in a different direction. When I realized that these weren’t really failures at all, just course corrections to guide me down another path, life got a little easier because “I” wasn’t a failure, “I” was just heading down the wrong road.
When we think of life from this new perspective, we become free and bold. We are no longer afraid to fail, because we realize that we are not failing at all, we are simply exploring different paths to see which one fits the best.
Here are some ways to fail forward and become the best version of yourself:
- Be bold in your goals – Look at a goal you think you can hit, then shoot for the next one or two past that goal instead. Even if you don’t make it all the way, you still are further than you where when you started.
- Make a decision – The only way to truly fail is to never have tried in the first place. Pick a plan then do it. No more excuses why you can’t do something.
- Aim high and keep a focus – I have a vision board with all sorts of crazy things on it (like publishing a book and becoming a #1 bestseller). When we focus on our goal, we spend more time thinking about how to get there and less on the ways that didn’t work.
- Don’t own your failures – If something is a failure, it doesn’t mean YOU are a failure. It simply means it didn’t work out. Don’t dwell on it, move on.
- Look around for other options – When you keep hitting a wall, it’s because there is something else out there that you need to explore. Look around. It’s probably right in front of you.
With some introspection and a few adjustments, my failures turned into blessings. After I was fired, I re-examined what I wanted to do with my life and became an Integrative Health Coach which is like playing every day because I love it so much. Working through my financial debt empowered me to know that I could make it on my own. The repeated health issues were rough, but I learned I could be well without perfect health, something I teach every day to others, and the addict stuff helped me to understand boundaries and a million other things I had missed.
Life may not always be the way you want it, but it’s always the way it’s suppose to be. When we stop fighting life and learn how to flow with it better, we see that failing is just propelling us forward on a different path that is better suited to us and our goals.
Have you ever looked back at your life at something and thought, “Thank God that didn’t work out”? My guess is that you have. Understanding that ‘failure’ is just a push forward in a better direction makes us lighter because now we can find our destiny.