Arianna Huffington’s mother taught her that failure is a stepping stone to success.  Similarly, I was taught that “failure teaches you who you are and shows you who you aren’t.”  Since then, I’ve learned that you can only define your success once you are clear on your identity because your identity uncovers your motivation. Every missed goal, unattained ambition, or botched new year’s resolution reveals something valuable about you that can be used to fuel your success. 

Failure Forces Truth

For years I set exercise goals and failed miserably. Like many people, I wasted money on gym memberships and bought fitness equipment that was only used to hang laundry that I was too lazy to fold.  I seriously despised exercise. Finally, I just accepted that it was not something I was ever going to do. 

Then one day, in my size 4 skinny jeans and cold-shoulder blouse, I huffed and puffed my way up two flights of stairs.  I was nearly breaking a sweat. It was clear my inside didn’t match my outside. Something had to change so I set a goal to exercise—again. And, I failed—again.  What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I do this? 

Failure Teaches You Who You Are

It finally occurred to me that the driver of most of my success was keeping me from meeting this particular goal.  The thing that made me a dominant sales leader, an award-winning marketer, the drum major, and the leader of a bunch of other stuff was now causing me to fail miserably at my goal to exercise— vanity—excessive pride in one’s appearance or achievements, as defined by Webster’s dictionary.  

For me, exercise was about weight control and I had successfully controlled my weight for decades by severely limiting calories.  As long as I looked good in my skinny jeans, I didn’t really believe I needed to exercise. This revelation of vanity didn’t just expose why I kept failing at exercise, it also showed me why I had crushed the goals in my past. My motivation up to that point was to be “better than” rather than being “better off.”   

Failure Shows You Who Your Aren’t

The discovery of my vanity led me to ask the question, “How can I be better off, not just better than?” This question showed me that I wasn’t doing what I truly wanted to do or being who I really wanted to be.  I am a creator – a writer to be more specific.  At that point, I transformed my life from being an overachiever at things I didn’t really want into a passionate, creative existence where I continue to find purpose daily. 

Failure Fuels Your Success

My repeated failure to keep a New Year’s resolution led to a complete and total transformation of my life– one that has manifested into five books, a blog, a podcast and you reading this post right now. I currently have a healthy diet with sufficient calories and a workout regimen that I consistently keep. It took years to get here. I arrived at this moment by understanding myself more with each failure.  I no longer try to be “better than” anyone or anything. I simply want to be “better off” and that fuels my success.  

Don’t beat yourself up over missed marks and failed resolutions. Use them as an opportunity to get to know yourself a little better. Then, use what you know to deepen your passion and find success.