Failing Forward

To fulfill our purpose in life we need to understand the concept of failing forward.

At times in life, all of us will fail at something. Another way to look at it is that each of us will miss the mark or goal at some point. It could be at work and not finishing a report on time. It may be at home where you may have let a family member or a loved one down. Another example is not obtaining the grade you wanted on an exam or in a class at school. If we are not careful, those situations can get us down. We must challenge ourselves to become better, not bitter, when life happens to us. The key to moving past the failures is in how we handle it. We have to learn to fail forward in order to reach our purpose in life.

Failing forward simply means taking the disappointment and using it as a springboard to move forward in a positive manner. When you are given lemons in life, make lemonade. When things do not go your way or the way that you had planned, learn from it and move forward gracefully. That’s failing forward. It means not getting stuck in the world of past let downs and put downs. It means becoming better, not bitter when trials and difficulties come.

Think of a morning glory flower bulb planted in a flower pot. It starts off as a brown small seed. The seed is packed down into the soil and then more soil is put on top of it. Just like life, we sometimes have dirt packed on top of us too. That dirt can be in many forms such as losing a job, a broken relationship, failing a course, or abuse. After the seed is packed down, you begin to water it and the seed begins to sprout roots and show new life. Like us, we too need to be watered in order to fail forward. That watering comes from being around positive people who sow into your life. The watering also comes from life giving relationships – not those that hurt you or tear you down. With watering, you too will begin to develop new, positive roots that will help you stay strong when trials come your way. The morning glory flower bulb requires sunshine. In order for it to grow tall and strong, the morning glory needs sunshine. In fact, it will turn and face the sun each morning – hence the name morning glory. We too need sunshine if we are going to fail forward. Yes, we obtain sunshine from the sun that provides warmth and vitamin E. We also obtain son-shine from the scriptures in the Bible. It gives us spiritual food for our life and for our spiritual growth.

In order to fail forward and pursue our purpose, we have to go through several steps that will propel us forward. Let’s examine five steps for failing forward. First, maintain a healthy outlook on life. Realize that things could always be much worse. Second, learn to accept both the things you can change and the things that you cannot change. Third, learn from the experience. Pray and ask the Lord to show you the lesson that needs to be learned. Learning from mistakes and let downs teaches you how to move on, how to be graceful when in difficult situations.

“The watering
also comes from
life giving relationships
—not those that
hurt you or
tear you down.”

Fourth, let the past go. Don’t hold on to past mistakes, let downs, and put downs. Let it go. If you hold a grudge for someone, it hurts you more than the other person. Forgive them and move on. Fifth, grow where you are planted. In other words, enjoy life now. Count the blessings in your life and be thankful. Implementing these five steps will help as you pursue your purpose in life and teach you how to fail forward.

by Viv L. Ewing, Ph.D.