On a warm summer’s day I eagerly prepared the ingredients needed to make profiteroles, those delightfully light pastries sometimes called “cream puffs”. It was my first attempt and I was excited to see the results. Another first was me using a piping bag to transfer the choux pastry mix onto the baking paper. Feeling like a professional baker I twisted and squeezed the mixture in spiral motion.
Hmmm. . . . It seemed that using a piping bag wasn’t as easy as it looked. Although the profiteroles were still tasty when I took them out of the oven, they resembled more of a pancake than the proud, erect silhouette of a true cream puff. I was feeling a little disappointed after all that effort, but I knew I would have to ditch the piping bag and start all over again. Once I did, they came out just the way I wanted. Not only did I inhale the beautiful aroma of chocolate and vanilla but also the sweet smell of success.
Instead of letting that minor mistake have the final word, I saw it as a point on a learning curve. But many times we can see failure or making mistakes in a negative light—something to avoid at all costs. Everyone loves a success story yet we cringe at failure. It’s seen as a negative and something to be avoided at all costs. But success and failure go hand in hand—failure can be our friend rather than our foe if we can embrace its benefits.
1: Failure builds character
Going through a failure is a remarkable test of your courage, your determination and your mindset. Until you’ve been through the worst you can’t truly appreciate the best. Failure is like a benchmark that reveals how strong you are. Failure is unavoidable if we are to succeed in life. Like Brook Stewart, pastor of South Sydney’s SeeChange church, says, “Failure can sometimes teach you what success never can.”
Unfortunately, many people don’t know how to overcome failure, and become immobilised by it. Psychologist Marie-Rose Paterson explained to me how people suffering anxiety avoid uncomfortable situations because of the fear of failure. She says that, “although this behaviour may prevent further anxiety, they miss out on opportunities and developing coping skills”.
2: Failure provides a reality check
Sometimes failing at something, no matter how much you want it, is a sign that something isn’t right. Use failure as a light to reveal what is really going on with your situation. Try to understand why you weren’t successful, and then use that information as you try again.
One way to find out what does work is to discover what doesn’t work. Set realistic goals. Once you’ve worked through the causes of your past disappointment, work on setting a more realistic goal for the future.
3: Failure drives you on
You can use the experience of failure to your advantage. The best way to use it is to help spur you on to do better next time. Use it as a tool for determination and grit to drive towards success.
Failure happens for a reason. It’s there to give you the wisdom you need to succeed. Each failure you face increases your wisdom and brings you one step closer to success.
If you have this mindset, you’ll see failure differently. You’ll understand that each failure is an opportunity to learn. The thought of giving up is tempting, but you should keep on trying with the same enthusiasm as when you began—otherwise your next effort won’t be effective.
4: Failure builds problem-solving skills
When faced with problems, we have the opportunity to use our problem-solving abilities and critical thinking skills to arrive at a practical and effective solution.
Once we are aware of our failure it’s important to understand the root causes. This requires analysis to ensure the right lessons are learned and changes are put in place; it allows for positive self-reflection, building our confidence in overcoming challenges.
Failure can help us look at the situation from a different perspective. Problem solving sets us up to re-approach a task that we initially failed at, motivating us to keep persisting in difficult times.
The ability to overcome failure is one big difference between successful and mediocre people. Keep your confidence in yourself despite the failure. Of course, you need to put in a lot of effort and learn as much as possible from the failure, but you have the ability to make your dream come true.
Julie Guirgis is an international freelance writer who enjoys the bush and beach in Sydney’s south. When she’s not writing she’s spending time with her family, making handmade journals and hanging out with friends.