Select Page

How to Overcome Failure


Most people make the mistake in thinking that, just because they failed at something, they should just move on. Or, if they failed it meant they were never meant to succeed at it. Wrong, wrong, wrong!  I help people deal with this every day in my Baha’i-inspired life coaching practice.

When you’re trying to accomplish something, failure is actually the best thing that can happen to you. Seriously! Do you think the light bulb was invented the first time around? No! In fact, Thomas Edison took thousands of tries to get it just right!

What about the first wheel or the telephone? Of course it takes multiple tries by multiple people to reach success, but the key point to remember is that you have to fail in order to know that you’ve succeeded.

Real Life Examples of Failure

  • Think of a toddler learning how to walk. Although they give a fair share of tantrums during the learning stages, they pull themselves up after each fall and try to walk again. Instinctively they’re teaching themselves how to perfect the movement all based on their past mistakes or failures. It’s a trial and error process!
  • People struggling with weight loss often feel like failures when they gain weight while dieting. Keeping a weight loss journal can help them track their progress and learn to recognize what triggers them to fail. Perhaps there are emotional or physical triggers that can be prevented. Learning from these mistakes will teach them how to combat those same problems in the future.

There is another benefit to failing: failure opens doors that will allow you to find out what you’re really destined to do.

The Bahai Writings teach:

Failures, tests, and trials, if we use them correctly, can become the means of purifying our spirit, strengthening our characters, and enable us to rise to greater heights of service.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 601)

We see failure opening doors in college all the time. Certainly you know at least one person who went to college with the intent of getting one degree and as they went through their course work, having their successes and failures, they discovered a new career interest and changed their major.

Think of a student who went to college to become a nurse but soon realized what they really enjoy is teaching. The whole reason they were going into nursing was to help educate people to improve their lives and they found the best way to do that is not as a nurse, but as a teacher. There’s nothing wrong with that!

As long as you’re able to learn from your “mistakes,” then they’re not mistakes at all – they are opportunities for success! There’s always something to learn from each and every situation and once you understand the lesson, it will make you a better person.

Failure makes you a stronger person. Imagine what it would be like if everything you did always went your way. Imagine that you were successful at everything you attempted your whole life and then one day it happened… you failed! You failed so badly that it caused you to lose everything. How in the world would you deal with that failure if you’ve never had to overcome an obstacle before?

From the Writings of the Bahá’í Faith we learn:

Every believer needs to remember that an essential characteristic of this physical world is that we are constantly faced with trials, tribulations, hardships and sufferings and that by overcoming them we achieve our moral and spiritual development; that we must seek to accomplish in the future what we may have failed to do in the past; that this is the way God tests His servants and we should look upon every failure or shortcoming as an opportunity to try again and to acquire a fuller consciousness of the Divine Will and purpose.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 366)

Failing allows you to become more resilient so you can always figure out a way to move forward.

The first wheel may have been square and it moved, but it was wobbly and eventually fell over, but the inventors never gave up! They began to figure out how to make it rounder so it would roll smoothly. You can do the same in your life! You can’t give up, you have to pick yourself up and figure out a way to roll forward, stronger than ever!

As we see in the Bahá’í Writings:

He strongly urges you not to dwell on yourself. Each one of us, if we look into our failures, is sure to feel unworthy and despondent, and this feeling only frustrates our constructive efforts and wastes time. The thing for us to focus on is the glory of the Cause and the Power of Bahá’u’lláh which can make of a mere drop a surging sea!  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 115)

How have you turned failure into a success?  Post your comments below.

Why Failure Is Really a Success


When something doesn’t go your way, what’s the first thought that pops into your head? Do you chastise yourself? Or do you reassure yourself that you are growing stronger and wiser with each challenge you face?

“. . . we must realize that everything which happens is due to some wisdom and that nothing happens without a reason.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 46.

In reality, it’s not the successes that make you a stronger, more successful person; it’s the failures.

This may sound odd, but each failure you have is actually a success. Why, you ask? Because it gives you the opportunity to improve, learn, and try again. Let’s take a look at a couple of the world’s greatest failures that lead to the some of the most ubiquitous inventions of our time.

  • Did you know that 3M’s greatest failure was inventing glue that won’t stick? That glue became the basis for the sticky backing on the “Post-It Note.”
  • Thomas Edison’s invention of the carbon microphone was a failure which contributed significantly to the commercial success of the telephone and remains in use today.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that each failure you encounter will land you with an immediate success. But it’s always a stepping-stone along the way.

“The more often the captain of a ship is in the tempest and difficult sailing the greater his knowledge be­comes. Therefore I am happy that you have had great tribulations and difficulties… Strange it is that I love you and still I am happy that you have sorrows.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. XIV, No. 2, p. 41.

You Can Only Appreciate Success After You’ve Failed

Thomas Edison had an incredibly positive attitude about failure. When he was questioned as to why so many of his experiments were failures, he responded by saying that he never had a failure in any of his experiments, rather, each experiment helped him discover another way that something would not work. In reality, sometimes the only way to know whether you’ve succeeded is to fail.

Learning How to Deal With Disappointment

Dealing with the disappointment of failure can be tough for adults as well as for children. But everyone experiences failure at some point in their lives and teaching our children how to deal with the disappointment is a critical life lesson.

Can you imagine a young adult, either a teen or college student, dealing with their first failures in the workplace? A tantrum at any age is not appealing, never mind from an adult who should know better.

Consider the very wise words of Winston Churchill who said, “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” What did he mean exactly? Well here are three reasons why failing is a good thing:

1. Inspiration – Before you laugh, think about your childhood when you didn’t get something right the first time. What did you do? Tried again and again! Each time the thought in your head was, “I am going to get it right this time!” What better motivation do you need?

2. Humility – No one is perfect, sometimes we need to be reminded of that very fact! Can you imagine a world where no one ever failed and we all walked around thinking we were God’s gift to the world?
3. Learning – Success makes you feel good, but failing teaches you a lesson. Think back to the first time you swung a bat, learned to walk, or tried to eat with a fork. Did you do it right the first time? Of course not. Did you figure out with each failure what you were doing wrong? Well if you can swing a bat today, walk and eat with a fork then I guess you did!

Thus you might look upon your own difficulties in the path of service. They are the means of your spirit growing and developing. You will suddenly find that you have conquered many of the prob­lems which upset you, and then you will
wonder why they should have troubled you at all.
Shoghi Effendi, Living the Life, pp. 35-36.

Failure brings positive change and success to those who are resilient. How has failure led to success in your life? Post your comments here.