Why Failing Is Good for You

Posted on March 18th, 2013 by in Words from the Wise

Life lessons on the yogic path

by Jennifer Mattson, guest blogger

“If you’re not failing, you’re not trying anything.” —Woody Allen

Nobody likes to fail. But whether it’s falling out of a headstand in yoga class, or trying a new recipe that ends up in the garbage, failure is inevitable—and it’s how we learn. We may not always enjoy it, but failing on and off the mat teaches us how to navigate through life.

“Life doesn’t offer rubber gloves,” says career coach and Kripalu invited presenter Tama Kieves. In her new book, Inspired & Unstoppable: Wildly Succeeding in Your Life’s Work!, Tama urges readers to give themselves permission to fail, because she wants them to “dare to succeed”—even if that means being sloppy, taking risks, or slipping up. Tama says excellence comes from experience, and experience often comes from failure. It’s a lesson she’s learned personally.

“Recently, as I’m growing my ‘creative empire,’ I have made a bunch of mistakes with people I’ve hired,” Tama explains. “It’s been painful, mucky, [but] I don’t think I could have learned another way. You could have told me these things. But I wouldn’t have believed it until I walked into it with my own two feet.”

Failing at something—whether it’s a job, a marriage, or a close friendship—can be devastating. And the more attached we become to a particular outcome, the greater the disappointment when things fall apart. But if you stop trying new things, or only allow yourself to do what you’re good at, the life you lead may not look like the life you want.

Senior Kripalu Life Coach and Healthy Living faculty member Aruni Nan Futuronsky says that “living yoga invites us into the practice of passionate non-attachment” so that after we take action, we can let go. “In this paradigm, there is no failure,” Aruni says. “It becomes less important what happens and [more] important how we learn to mindfully respond to what we are given in life.”

It’s important to remember that failing at one thing, no matter how big, doesn’t make you a failure and that learning how to cope with smaller disappointments—doing poorly on a test, getting a bad work review, or having trouble meditating—can help us in truly difficult times. Failing can also encourage us to reflect on whether we’re on the right path regarding work, love, spirituality, and family. It can be a time to sort out what’s working and what isn’t.

Aruni says she struggled for a year after losing a job she was deeply identified with was changed—her salary was reduced and her role minimized—and with that came shame and guilt. “But I held the posture. I continued to breathe. I did not leave or run, as much as I wanted to,” she says. “As time passed, I recognized that the new job was actually quite good, and [it] became the doorway through which I walked into a deeper knowing of myself.”

Have you been wrestling with a fear of failure? Share your experiences!

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About Jennifer Mattson

Jennifer Mattson is a journalist, writer, yogini, and kirtan junkie. A former volunteer resident at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, she’s a former broadcast news producer for CNN and National Public Radio. Her reporting and writing have appeared in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, USA Today and the Women’s Review of Books.
  • Michele

    Such a wise article. So true! If you’re not failing once in awhile, you’re not challengingyourself or growing. It is so important to learn to deal well with life when it does not go your way. This is how we truly learn how to navigate through the human adventure!

  • Jennifer

    Thanks Michele. I think people sometimes think failing means they are are on wrong path but, as you said, it often is a sign that we are actually just a step or two away from a major breakthrough in our lives. Learning to fail is just as important as learning to succeed.