5 Unexpected Gifts Found in Failure

The following post is from Jamie Martin of Steady Mom and Simple Homeschool:

source: through my eyes only

Does a haunting skeleton of failure live in your closet?

Does the fear of not succeeding paralyze you from fully pursuing your passion — starting that blog, writing your book, enrolling in college?

If so, maybe you need to reframe failure. Maybe it isn’t entirely negative.

Each of us has a story of aiming about something we didn’t quite reach. I know in my life, especially since I’ve had children, I’ve stared parenting failure in the face on many, many occasions.

It’s never pleasant to fail, of course, but here are five unexpected gifts hidden underneath what may look like defeat on the surface.

1. Guidance

We’ve all heard that “when God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.” Cliche? Absolutely. But it’s true that failure can point us in a new direction.

Someone laid off from a job discovers a new career path. As a parent, a discipline failure provides guidance about a new strategy to try next time. A child who does badly in a certain school subject may uncover his strength in another area.

Viewed through this lens, failure almost looks exciting. As long as you believe that the best is still to come, you’ll look at failure as direction, not destruction.

2. Humility

Sometimes we need to be reminded that we can’t always be the best at everything. Failure shows us how much we depend on relationships — other people to walk alongside us and help when we need it.

When I fail as a mom — lose my patience or speak harshly to a child, I have a choice. I can heap guilt on myself for my lack of perfection, or I can ask for forgiveness.

Choosing the second option actually strengthens family relationships and reminds me that my personal failures, if handled in the light of humility, have something positive to offer to others as well as myself.

3. Perspective

Maybe what we hope to achieve isn’t what we really need. Or maybe, in the grand scheme of life, it just doesn’t matter.

When I attended college, my goal was to graduate summa cum laude, with a GPA of over 3.9. I worked toward this all four years of university, especially stepping up my game during my final year. I studied diligently, never making below a B in any course. My final two semesters I received all A’s.

I walked down the aisle on graduation day with a GPA of 3.89.

I missed my goal by .01 and graduated magna cum laude instead. I was thrilled to have finished school, but there was a slight undercurrent of defeat kept hidden with smiles that day. I had tried my best, but it wasn’t quite good enough.

Now, over a decade later, I look back on that time with perspective. Not once in the last ten years has anyone asked the specifics of my GPA. Not once.

Yes, it would have been nice to hit what I was striving toward, but now I see just having the goal at the time helped me. I worked hard and developed perseverance because of that goal. Those character qualities have stayed with me in the decade since graduation — they are the gifts within the apparent failure.

4. Maturity

Sometimes a failure is a wake-up call that it’s time to grow up. That doesn’t mean just accepting negativity and looking forward to a life of bleak resignation. Far from it.

The gift of maturity grants us experience. As we age, we add the experiences of both success and failure to the canvas of our life’s resume. Providing we handle both with a positive attitude, they blend together with a depth and richness we wouldn’t have gathered any other way.

You see this in individuals who have overcome overwhelming odds to reach the success they now have. The maturity of putting forth your best in life doesn’t mean you’ll never have a setback, but it means your setbacks add to the future achievement on the way.

5. Clarity

Often the only way we recognize our goals is by defining what they are not. Failure helps. Through a setback we may recognize that the dream we’re striving for isn’t really what we wanted to begin with. Or a supposed setback may give us the focus we need to keep going in spite of challenges.

Louisa May Alcott received a rejection from a publisher, stating she’d never write anything with selling potential.

A teacher once told Thomas Edison that he didn’t have enough intelligence to study science.

History is littered with stories like these, of those who took bad news and turned it to their eventual advantage, in spite of the obstacles.

If they could do it, why can’t you?

Use failure to get clear about what you really want, then don’t let anything hold you back.

Gandhi once wrote, “My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and talents.” Gandhi knew the gifts hidden in imperfection, and his eventual success changed the world.

Start today.

Look at failure — in your business, your career, your personal life — through the lens of opportunity. You might just find a huge victory waiting around the corner.

What did you learn from your last failure?

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She serves as editor of Simple Homeschool and blogs about mindful parenting at Steady Mom. Check out her book: Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood.