How Encountering Failure Expanded My Horizons

In line with this week's Weekly Prompt, these are 5 ways encountering academic failure and uncertainty of my goals helped expand my mindset and view of my world.

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Image Courtesy of Twitter Account: @BTS_twt
Image Courtesy of Twitter Account: @BTS_twt

When we encounter failure, our instant reaction is often anger, humiliation or frustration. We don’t often thank failure for happening. The last quarter of 2018 till the end of 2019 was filled with many questions. Many “why did this have to happen?”, questioning if I was even cut out for the career I was working towards, do I still have any mental strength left to keep going, trying to understand the emotions I was feeling, was my emotional responses appropriate?

In line with this week’s Weekly Prompt, these were some of the ways encountering failure and uncertainty helped expand my mindset and view of my world:

1. It made me consider other options.

It’s understandable that when you’ve been so invested in a path for so long, your life starts to revolve around it. Our worth then becomes based on achieving this goal, this milestone.

Failure reminded me once again that my life should not just be about my career, how well I perform, the qualifications and the achievements. Yes, finishing what I started was important. Yes, we should not immediately give up the moment we encounter an obstacle.

But aside from our academic qualifications or jobs that we hold, we are free to think about options. We might not end up being in a career that is related to our academic qualification. We might enjoy volunteering with animal shelters on the side. We might enjoy writing, drawing, painting to express ourselves. We might have always wanted to start our own business or clothing line.

Not all of us have a big dream to be at the top of the world – and that is okay. There is a lyric in BTS’s “Paradise” which says, “Who says a dream must be something grand? We deserve a life, whatever big or small, you are you after all.”

2. Man can plan, but only God knows what is meant for us.

Proverbs 16:9 (NLT) says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”

We are most at ease when we are in control: control over our own lives – whether it be our financial status, having a stable job, our time, our relationships and friendships.

No one likes to think they would fail at something they set their mind to conquer. When failure happens, it does cause a wreck in our plans. We think of the possible domino effect this one mistake could create: it would delay us starting work, our plans to take a break would be on hold, we may have to skimp on certain things this month to breakeven, we may have to work overtime to cover this unexpected mishap.

Failure teaches us to roll with the punches. We can plan to our heart’s desire, but as much as we plan, we can’t really know it all. We may never know why we had to face a setback, but there always is a purpose in everything that you are going through.

3. It helped me to re-evaluate who and what I hold close in my life.

When you encounter failure or you are at your lowest, you start to see those who do truly genuinely care in comparison to those who are only there for the good things. Or rather, those who are only eager for you to be there for them, but are lost when it’s the other way around.

I found that I was slowly having lesser energy for many things throughout this time of being constantly stressed and distracted. I had to learn to work around my depleted energy: distinguishing between what helps me and what doesn’t, prioritising who I should be around, shut out what is unnecessary in comparison to what I should listen to.

4. Realising it was okay to seek help and finally taking steps to search for clarity.

I was reading Haruki Murakami’s ‘What I Think About When I Talk About Running‘, and this quote stood out to me: “Pain is inevitable. But suffering is optional.”

You don’t have to suffer alone. You don’t have to be the great strong hero all the time. No one is asking you to be the one who always has their life sorted out.

Talk to someone about what you are going through. Go for therapy. Find ways to express yourself. Go for a run every now and then. Lean on your community. Start a hobby you can carry out as you heal. Rest when you need to.

5. It made me learn to appreciate the little things more.

When you fluctuate between feeling lost and down, experiencing happiness becomes something you learn to appreciate more.

A sliver of happiness is enough.

Being around family. Petting a fluffy puppy. Seeing kids happily running around with their friends. Watching YouTube videos of a band you like. Getting a good sleep. Actually feeling you could do life instead of a black cloud hovering over the back of your mind.

When you encounter a lot of negativity, you start to appreciate even more the little things that makes you happy.

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