I started out my adult life thinking failure was an unthinkable consequence of anything I tried. As a result, I sometimes put incredible amounts of effort into things that didn’t end up adding much to my life, and by doing this I realized that sometimes failure is simply life’s way of putting you on a different path.
I studied physics in undergraduate school, and when I got into graduate school I felt like I had won the lottery. I couldn’t imagine my incredible luck. But shortly after starting school it became clear to me that I was in over my head, that I didn’t enjoy it, and that I would be miserable. I came very close to failing, but being the determined person that I am, I stuck it out. I tied too much of my self-worth to my success in graduate school, and as a result I refused to accept failure as an option. My reward was six truly miserable years. I look back on it and wonder why I continued, why I didn’t get out and put myself on another path.
The failure of a relationship can also be a gift. A friend once said to me after I was unceremoniously dumped, “the day a guy dumps you could be the luckiest day of your life.” Looking back I appreciate his ability to see that things weren’t working and to move on. It allowed me to find true happiness with someone who was a much better fit for me.
Now I am in a much better position to see what a gift failure can be. When you’ve tried your best and something just isn’t working, sometimes it’s just better to move on to something else, even if you aren’t sure at the time what that something else will be. I have a mantra that I repeat to myself in times of transition, when I am unsure what lies ahead. “There is something great out there for me.” There are great things out there for all of us, but to pursue these things, we need to believe they exist.