When was the last time you failed at something? Whether it happened recently or long ago, the feeling has likely stuck with you. Our failures are often etched into our brains in more detail than any of our greatest successes, which makes overcoming a failure even more difficult. But just because you failed at something doesn’t mean you are a failure, it simply means you tried something new and it didn’t work out. And that’s okay! It’s better to try and fail than not try at all.
If we never failed, then we wouldn’t appreciate how great it feels to succeed. And if we never failed, then we’d never learn some of life’s greatest lessons – like how to persevere, how to stay strong during times of adversity, or when to pivot. I’ve often found that learning what I don’t want in life has been just as (if not more) valuable as learning what I do want.
Life never works out exactly as you planned, and that’s a good thing. Without failure, you’d never be surprised or learn something new or grow as a person. If you’re dealing with a failure right now, it can be hard to understand that through the fog of grief. Sometimes failure can feel like your world is ending, but when a dream is dashed that just means an even better dream can grow in its place.
To prove just how true this is, we asked our Evie writers about moments of failure that changed their lives for the better. Here’s what some of them had to say.
"I always dreamed of being a TV writer, so after grad school, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue that goal. I didn’t have any connections and I’d never been to LA before, but I somehow worked my way into the writers’ rooms on a few popular TV shows. While things were going well as I was grinding away toward my goal, I was miserable. I was depressed, chronically stressed, and unfulfilled. After five years in LA, I decided to leave and I felt like a gigantic failure – just another person who couldn’t hack it in LA.
It’s okay for your dreams to change.
But if I’d never failed at my goal of writing for TV, I never would have realized how much more to life there is than just work and that it’s okay for your dreams to change. I never would have learned how much happier I could be living somewhere I actually enjoyed, and how you can still pursue your passions as side hustles with just as much (if not more) fulfillment."
"During my freshman year of college, I was dating a guy from high school who was not good for me anymore. We had outgrown each other, but I didn't want to accept it. He started treating me really poorly, and it put me in a bad mental state. He ended up breaking up with me the summer after freshman year, and I was heartbroken. When I went back to college in the fall for my sophomore year, I had the best semester of my life (socially, academically, mentally, etc.) because I was no longer doing a long-distance relationship with a boy I had outgrown."
"It was the week of my state board exam for my career. In one week, my boyfriend dumped me, my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and to top it off – I failed the first part of my exam. My mom encouraged me to retake the exam, but I was feeling so depressed and unmotivated. Thank God, I pushed forward and passed the full exam. Now, years later, I’m married to the love of my life, my mom is cancer-free, and I’m thriving in my career. This taught me not to let my feelings or circumstances control me and to strive for excellence, and the results will come. A victim mindset will only hold you back."
"When I was in college, a girl who I thought was my friend spread a vicious rumor about me. I lost friends who ended up taking her side, which made the betrayal so much worse. This ex-friend was very judgmental of the type of people I associated with, often telling me that some of my other friends were bad for me.
At the end of the day, I learned who my true friends were. The friends who she'd previously warned me about were the ones who were there for me after she betrayed me, and I'm still close to many of them to this day. The lesson learned was that everything happens for a reason and that you can always make lemonade out of lemons. I realized that the group of friends who dropped me only brought me down, but the ones who stuck by lifted me back up."
"I failed academically. Twice, actually. The first time, I didn’t get into the US Air Force Academy due to my score on the math portion of the SAT being too low (it’s okay, I went to Rice University instead). And the second time, I scored a 32 on my entry-level chemistry exam. Both of these failures shut the door on things I really wanted. I desperately wanted to be a fighter pilot, then I desperately wanted to be a doctor or PA.
But had I accomplished either of those things, I would not have the picture-perfect life I have today: 30 years old with three children, living on a homestead with a garden and all the cute animals a girl could want, intellectually pursuing my truest, first love, writing. And before settling down? I traveled the world with my husband because, as fate would have it, he made it into the US Naval Academy. The life I have now is far better than the one I had planned, and I’m forever grateful."
"When my husband was getting a Ph.D., I was at home with babies and we were living on a (very small) Ph.D. stipend. As he was nearing the end of his program, his dream job opened up and everyone thought he was a shoo-in. He applied and after a rigorous interview process (which seemed to go well), he was not offered the position. We were devastated. His market is very small and there aren’t many jobs, so we didn’t know how we’d support our family. It was definitely a 'dark night of the soul' moment.
Sometimes taking those steps in the dark is what is necessary to create our dream lives.
Over the next couple of years, we were able to combine our efforts into various entrepreneurial and other ventures, after which an even dreamier job opened up. Again, he nailed the interview, and this time, he received an amazing offer. He accepted, and now we are both doing what we love, and our family is secure. Though we never could have imagined it at the time, the failure of not getting the initial 'dream job' was the best thing that could have happened to us. Sometimes taking those steps in the dark is what is necessary to create our dream lives."
"I hit a health collapse and was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, which culminated in an intense meltdown in the ER. I had to be transferred there for testing because I was too dehydrated for routine medical procedures and needed the special equipment for emergencies. I was overwhelmed because I’d have to quit my teaching job per doctor’s orders and had no idea what would happen, plus I was plagued with the thought of possibly developing colon cancer (which can progress from Crohn’s).
After my ER meltdown, I quit my job (I couldn’t give two weeks' notice because I was too sick to go into work). The doctor wanted to put me on steroids, which I knew wouldn’t heal the issue. I was determined to not give up, even though I felt like I had hit rock bottom. I was a big fan of Crohn’s survivor Jordan Ruben’s book The Maker’s Diet, so I set out on a journey of healing myself from the inside out with nutrition and lifestyle habits that included stress management and mindful eating. After a year of serious and intentional healing, I feel like a normal person again!
I have a new norm in my health and wellness lifestyle, and this life crisis taught me that health and a good life all come down to mindfulness and willpower. The medical industry is great and necessary for some things, but Big Pharma always gets in the way of whole healing. Without this factor, I wouldn’t have needed to learn all that I have to take control of my health and life. I’ve learned to not take health and a joyful life for granted, and now I really appreciate simple things like being able to hike a mountain and not having to live next to the bathroom."
As you can see, a lot of things in our own lives didn’t work out the way we planned, but we’re better off because of it. If you’re dealing with a failure right now, try to find something positive to hold onto. I hate to throw around the term “silver lining” because it sounds cliché, but clichés exist because they’re true! Failure is painful, but take comfort in the fact that you’re stronger because of it.
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