Redefining Your “Failures”

Written for & published by In Her Shoes Foundation (2013)

By Melissa Doman, M.A.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

A really cool person once shared with me that failure is equally as effective as success in helping you decide your choices about your future.

They had a really good point.

When things don’t work out the way we planned, it’s understandable that it feels cruddy, uncomfortable, and reallllllly disappointing.

Here’s the thing though....

Once those initial feelings pass and you’ve had time to readjust to a new set of circumstances, that’s a seriously opportune time to ask yourself the following: well, that didn’t work out, what do I want to do differently now?

And there you have it – a second chance is born!

I’d flat out recommend scrubbing the word failure from your vocabulary. Take it upon yourself and be disciplined in finding more positive synonyms for that word. Whether you call it a setback, change of course, or temporary malfunction – find what works that’ll motivate you to keep pushing forward and test your metal.

The first thing I’d tell you is this: don’t be so self-critical. Do you really think you’re the first person to try something and have it not work out the way you planned?

I know your parents told you that you're super unique, but c'mon now.

You’re not the first person and certainly won’t be the last to take a trip down the ugh-now-what-do-I-do-now lane.

The second thing I’d tell you is: resist the urge to blame others. When we try to plan things, the universe 100% laughs at us. When things take a turn for the weird, what’s done is done, and pointing the finger at others won’t do a thing. Another silver lining to the dark cloud is that experiencing failures can help you learn how to cope with the unexpected. This skill will serve you very well in many walks of life.

Something we also forget is when we experience a failure we are literally getting a second chance to do things totally differently.

How awesome sauce is that?!

Having the ability to cherry pick from our choices and apply them in a different way down another course in life is a pretty sweet deal if you ask me. As predictable as it may sound, there's a lot of stock in the old saying about mistakes of, “that’s why pencils have erasers.”  Most importantly, choose to remember that at least you have attempted to do something great and noteworthy as opposed to not venturing into the unknown at all. Personally, I’d rather jump and fall rather than never leaving the ground.

According to a great article on, there's 4 great how-to steps when recovering from a failure fumble, and they go something like this:

1. Feel what happened and reflect on it

2. Don’t forget to claim appropriate responsibility for what went down

3. Admit where you may have messed up and reframe your mindset

4. Take effective action, make a new plan, and move forward 

The reason why I’ve left these suggestions quite broad is because I want you, the reader, to take a moment and apply these guidance steps to whatever you feel needs it most right now in your life. Whether it’s something that’s happened in your career, moving to a new place, a relationship, or a personal goal – the process of redefining how you view and experience failure will still help you.

So, with that being said, I wish you lots of useful falling, tripping, and fumbling towards your goals and where you want to be.