“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” —Sun Tzu
Hard times… well, they’re hard. And sure, for awhile, you might feel like crap and want to wallow, but at some point, you’ve got a choice to make. You can stay fallen and let your life become just a pale shadow of what it could be, or you can get your ass up and make things better than ever before.
The thing about failure is that we’re all dancing around, trying to avoid it, but to make real progress in our lives, we’ve got to both risk it AND deal with it when it happens.
Even if it seems bad right now, there is a silver lining to everything that seems to have gone wrong, and that’s exactly what I want to talk about today. Let’s go over the unexpected benefits to failure.
People go to battlefields and die for freedom. But when we’re in the midst of failing at something or going through a breakup, the freedom provided by failure seems scary.
Say you failed at a business or are faced with a divorce. Well, no more clocking hours trying to force it to work. No more worrying that it ISN’T working, just solid, obvious confirmation that it DOES NOT WORK, at least in it’s previous format.
If we set aside the self pity aspect of this and look at the reality, it’s pretty darn freeing. No more going to that job you hated, no more trying to patch things up with someone who doesn’t love you anymore, “for the sake of the children.” Just, plain, unadulterated freedom to remake your life in whatever way you choose.
If you felt trapped and stifled in whatever circumstances you found yourself in before, guess what? That’s over.
The only way to stay stuck after failure is to make the choice not to try again. And, even then, that’s a choice. You can do whatever you want, you don’t HAVE TO choose to give up. You can even go back and make the same mistakes all over again, but one thing is deadly clear, and that’s that change has arrived.
2. Failure presents us with reality.
When we’re in that in-between space where we don’t really know if something is going to work out or not, there is a lot of uncertainty.
We might be doing lots of striving, but we’re also in a place of not knowing whether our efforts will ever actually amount to anything.
Now, after failing miserably at whatever you failed at, it becomes much more difficult to stay in that lukewarm space of self delusion. You’ve got irrefutable proof that SOMETHING is the wrong thing. And that leads me to my next point.
3. Failure is an opportunity to take stock and learn for next time.
Failure is a tremendous teacher.
When things seem shot to hell, whether you want it or not, you’re rocketed right into learning mode. You screwed up, the world ate you up and spit you out, whatever. You can LEARN FROM IT.
Were you complacent about your relationship? Did you get so boring and pathetic that your wife couldn’t stand to be around you? Did you give up on your job?
Pain sucks. But one of the biggest silver linings to failure is that if we take the opportunity to look back on the mistakes we made, there’s a ton to be learned from them, so that we can begin again, better next time.
Sure, you can let yourself swirl around the toilet bowl of self pity for awhile (which happens to most people), but you can also pull yourself together, decide that you’re human, chalk it up to experience and vow not to let it happen again.
…And that is the essence of growth.
As humans, we’re either growing or we’re dying. When we abdicate responsibility, choose to wallow and give up, well, that’s dying. And yes, you can choose that. But remember, no one is going to give you a medal (or a better marriage, or your dream job) for it.
4. Failure allows you to reorganize your life how you really want it to look.
As the problems in your old life fall away, you have the massive, shiny opportunity for rebirth. It’s an opportunity, even though right now you might not feel like it’s particularly welcome, or exciting.
Yes, there will be grief and hard days. But you’ve also earned the right to reinvent your life into something you might actually LIKE. You’ve tried SOMETHING, and now, if you allow yourself to take the time to see your part in what happened, you can stand back and admit two empowering things to yourself:
You took a risk AND now you know what doesn’t work.
Both are valuable information for when you’re ready to rebuild your life with a stronger foundation.