At this time of year, many people around the world express their gratitude for the things they have, the important people in their lives, and the simple niceties that make up their daily life.
Personally, I see this as a wonderful thing to do. I’m big believer in the power of being thankful, and recognizing the value of what you have.
However, I also think at times it is valuable to flip the script and be grateful for the things that we lost, failed at, or frustrated us. By looking at the ‘failures’ in our lives, we can often see a direct path to the growth that made us who we are today.
In the technology world, a ‘failure’ is the description for something that doesn’t work as expected. Typically it’s not a good thing at the time, but it often leads to being able to uncover a bug that can be fixed. In this way, the failure is the source of a better working solution.
In my own life, I can see the same thing to be true.
There was a time in my life that due a surprise business failure, I lost almost $40,000 that was owed to me. At the time, I really could have used that money, but it never arrived. To say I was angry is an understatement. But due to the necessity of the situation, I soon found ways to earn new income and started to rebuild my financial stability. As a result of that ‘failure’ I am today a much better money manager and have been financially solvent for over 10 years.
Another time, when a woman I truly loved left me, I felt like the world was going to end. In that moment, I couldn’t fathom why this person who seemed so perfectly suited to me would want to leave. Yet after some time passed, I saw how not being together actually freed me up to become a person who could contribute to the world at a higher level. If I hadn’t experienced the loss, I would never have gained the chance to do what I do today.
At the time of a failure, last thing we want to do is be grateful for it. Instead we usually want to be resentful, bitter or feel sorry for ourselves. And while we at times we might have had good reason to, there is also another choice.
Being grateful for a failure is the key to learning from it and rising stronger next time.
Whenever I have failed at something, it has led me to a better understanding of who I am, what I want, and what I need to do differently.
Perhaps most of all, the chance to face a failure or setback head-on shows our true selves to the world. When we are scared, broken down, or feel beaten, this is the time when our strength grows and we can rise higher than we thought possible.
As the poet Maya Angelou so eloquently stated, “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
I think, taking this a step further, if we are grateful for them, they will help us become someone we never realized we could be.
Thank you, Failure.