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Bentley Magazine

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Five Reasons Failing is Good for You

Peter Forkner 

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Peter Forkner. Photo by Melody Smith.

“Congratulations on your recent failure” may never be a Hallmark-worthy sentiment. But there are reasons to value — even welcome — the experience. Here, Peter Forkner of Bentley’s Counseling Center talks about the upside of falling short. 

FAILURE TEACHES RESILIENCE. Failure can be embarrassing and painful. But navigating such an experience conveys the invaluable knowledge that we are strong and capable — perhaps more so than we had imagined. It increases confidence and tolerance for engaging in difficult challenges with uncertain outcomes.  

IT PROVES YOU ARE TESTING THE LIMITS OF YOUR POTENTIAL. If you have never failed in pursuit of a goal, then you may not be setting your sights high enough. While we should never be seeking out failure, selecting only goals that we are certain to achieve comes at a cost: missing out on opportunities to accomplish much more. You haven’t truly tested your potential unless you have tried something that you can’t do.

IT ALLOWS FOR SELF-CORRECTION. Our first impulse may be to blame failure on external circumstances. But this assigns responsibility to factors outside our control. Instead, we should look inward, reflecting on the ways that we contributed to falling short of a goal.

IT POINTS TO NEW OPPORTUNITIES. Being committed to a particular course of action can blind us to other opportunities. At our campus event on the topic of failure, one panelist described being cut from her field hockey team. While devastated, she used the time otherwise spent practicing to volunteer in health service. That service became a passion and led to a career as a health promotion specialist.

IT DEEPENS CONNECTION WITH OTHERS. Often, our instinct in the face of failure is to pull away from those who can best support us. That retreat is especially common now, when posts on social media suggest that everyone else is doing so well. However, being authentic with others at times when we are most vulnerable is immensely powerful and strengthens the foundation of all relationships.