Failing with Purpose, by Emma Manetta

“Failure is something to be avoided. Once you fail, you can no longer succeed.” From a young age, I was taught that anything other than success was shameful. The idea of being less than perfect in school, work, and my personal life constantly restricted me. I was told to decide my future and to stick with it or else I would be aimlessly living life without a purpose, without value. Failure would mean I was worthless. 

Society has taught us to avoid failure.

As a collective, we are afraid to fail. We are afraid to venture out of the “norm.”  We avoid failure in school as we strive for As so that we can get into a reputable university, subsequently obtaining an ideal job. What we “fail” to realize is that failure is the key to success. 

The Summer before my freshman year of college, I decided to take a risk. It was no longer in my interest to further my education – much less attend a four-year university. From coloring inside the lines to exclusively taking honors/AP classes, for 12 years I had strived for success. In the eyes of my peers, this one decision erased all of the hard work I had poured into securing my future. What they failed to realize was that this action of “erasure” was the first real step I had taken for myself. I was finally honoring my vision of success and the expectations that come with it – ones I had set in place myself. 

It is important to realize that our journeys should be personalized to our expectations of ourselves. While college may not be in my plans, that does not mean we must abandon higher education to free ourselves from the burden of societal expectations. You can attend college AND reject the “norm.” All it takes is a subtle shift in your mindset.

By reframing your mindset, you are able to see the potential of failure.

Embracing the mindset that we are striving for an end goal; a single defining moment in life that means we “made” it, prolongs the presence of a society that is averse to failure. Once we shift our perspective of life to one that is growth-centric, we are able to use failure to our advantage. If failure is an opportunity for growth, it becomes easier to venture out of our comfort zone. Rather than avoiding failure, embracing it will result in growth, wellness, and new opportunities. 

Failing is Learning

There are four key ways that I embrace failure: 1. Let go of control 2. Let it happen 3. Reflect 4. Do it again. 

To let go of control is to embrace the risk of failure. By “letting” it happen, you are able to digest the lessons of failure. Through reflection, you develop an approach that is conducive to your growth. Repeating the same mistakes will only stunt your growth,  new mistakes will accelerate it. 

Lastly, failure does not mean no. Failure does not mean “give up”. Failure means try again, just in a different way. 

“Failure is an important part of your growth and developing resilience. Don’t be afraid to fail.” – Michelle Obama