This pain. It hurts. It hurts a lot. It’s the pain of failure we’ve all experienced at one point or another. Even as I write this, I wince every time I think back to a recent, miserable failure I experienced. Although this failure was weeks ago, I still feel the sting whenever my mind chooses to wander back to that day.
Although personal development gurus and teachers rightfully advocate taking risks in life, I don’t think they quite emphasize how painful the failures can be from the risks that don’t work out. It has been weeks and I still feel the pain of my most recent failure. And I’m sure others have experienced just as painful failures, losses and rejections as a result of high-risk, high-reward actions that didn’t quite work out. I’m here to tell you that these painful memories don’t fade so easily, no matter how many times you hear a motivational speaker tell you that you need to embrace failure.
I’ve come to know the pain of failure intimately ever since I started taking more calculated risks in my life. And I’ve come to learn a few things about it which may help you, should you ever find yourself in a gloomy state from a recent, unpleasant failure.
1) The pain really is terrible. The more emotional attachment you feel to the outcome you want, the more painful the failure will feel. A lot of “gurus” recommend avoiding such emotional attachments, but sometimes you can’t help it. And sometimes, it’s that emotional attachment that drives you to work harder and persevere longer than you would have normally. Just be aware that these powerful emotions are double-edged swords.
2) You won’t feel like it was worth it while you’re experiencing the pain. The pain is usually acute, sharp and unwavering, and you’ll wish you had never taken that risk. You might feel stupid or foolish for having done so, even if the risk was well-calculated and the right thing to do in that moment. This is a normal part of the recovery process.
3) Talking to friends and reading inspirational pieces will help you feel better, but only temporarily. Unless you’re a very optimistic person by nature (most of us aren’t), our minds like to dwell on the negative from time to time, especially during the rough period after a hard failure. Friends who give you great advice and books that show you how fortunate you are in life can all work to adjust your mood and bring you to a better place, mentally and emotionally. But most of the time, this is only temporary, and you’ll soon find yourself back in a painful spot as you remember and dwell on the failure. Therefore, it’s a wise idea to keep good company and inspirational literature close by for whenever you need a bit of support.
4) Thankfully, the pain does go away. It took years for the pain from some of the epic failures in my life to fade, but it eventually goes away. Remember that while you’re hanging in there. It may not be tomorrow. It may not be in a week, month or even a year from now. But it will go away.
5) As the pain fades over time, you will feel glad you took to route you did (assuming it was a calculated, educated risk, rather than a reckless, foolish one). You played the odds to pursue something you valued. You went after what others wouldn’t dare to pursue. And you failed. But you learned. And you’ll live the rest of your life feeling no regrets about that moment, because you strived as high and acted as intelligently as you could.
6) When you experience that pain again, you’ll feel slightly more immune to it. And you’ll recover a little bit quicker. And it won’t be as painful a memory as your last failure. You’ll start to feel “immune” to the emotional impact of failure. In other words, the potential reward of the risks you take will remain just as high, but the potential losses shrink as you feel less and less emotional pain from failure.
7) When you look back, all of those acute feelings of pain you experienced were nowhere near as bad as the dull, steady pain of those who never took risks, and now hold a lifetime’s worth of regret on their shoulders. That type of pain starts off manageable and easy to ignore. But over one’s lifetime, it becomes an insurmountable cause of unhappiness, with each day becoming more and more painful as the new regrets pile up on top of old ones.
So the next time you find yourself in the midst of pain from failure – a pain so bad, you’ll wish you could go back in time and take the safer route – read the seven points above. It’ll help you cope until you’re ready for your next calculated risk.