Why failure is important, and how to learn from it

By Anna Alford: Culture Columnist

Lost out on that dream job even though you thought you aced the interview? Lost in love? Failed your driving test, again? Life is never completely smooth sailing and it wouldn’t be real if things didn’t go tits up from time to time. It’s not always easy to get what you want, at least not first-time round, but learning what to do when it all goes wrong, and how to move on, can lead to some surprising successes.

Be kind to yourself

Read an inspiring book. Eat that last slice of cake. Buy yourself that new pair of jeans that you have been eyeing up for the past few weeks. It’s not alien to use a set back as an excuse to give yourself hell, blaming your own stupidity for your blunder. The nicer you are to yourself when you’re feeling a bit down in the dumps, the faster you will bounce back up again.

Acknowledge how you feel

Allow yourself to be sad! Trying to push any negative emotions beneath a fabricated bravado only means they will resurface much more intensely at a later date. Tell a close friend or a family member how you feel; they’ve probably been through something very similar. Getting your feelings out in the open will allow you to process them faster and move on apace.

Remind yourself that no one’s perfect

‘But why does this always happen to me?’ you may have on a perpetual loop in your head. It is quite common to wallow in self-pity when you think nothing in your life is going right. You have to remind yourself that no one is perfect, as much as their rose-tinted social media channels may lead you to think otherwise.

Surprisingly, Walt Disney was fired from his first job, as his boss thought he ‘lacked imagination and had no good ideas’. He went on to revolutionize animation over the course of the 20th century, racking up an impressive 59 Academy Award nominations.

Failure teaches you valuable lessons that are only obvious in hindsight. It’s important to put yourself out there and open yourself up to the possibility of failing, as scary as it seems – the comfort zone can become a very dreary place. Everyone’s susceptible to getting caught up in the results-motivated, perfectionist society we live in, making us lose face and hide ourselves away when anything goes wrong.

Think about what is now possible because you failed. Projecting yourself into the future and dismissing the fact you may feel like a major disappointment right now allows you to re-center your thoughts on what successes this blip could pave the way for. Perhaps losing out on one job allows you to seek out another, better, one. Could failing that exam lead you down another more exciting career path? Learn and grow. Learn and grow. Learn and grow.

mackayan: it’s all gone pete tong