The Purpose Behind Your (Perceived) Failures

The Purpose Behind Your (Perceived) Failures

It feels like an unwritten rule that going through tough times is somehow not allowed. As if it’s possible to avoid the twists and turns of life—and if you can’t, then the least you can do is hide the hard parts from others. Right?

A trip to Wyoming a few years ago taught me otherwise. I was in the backseat of a rental car, cruising toward Yellowstone National Park with my aunt and uncle in the front (Yes, this is the trip where I was also nearly assaulted by an elk). And after barreling down the road through densely wooded forests for some time, we came upon acres and acres of scorched earth.

My first instinct was to assume there’d been a terrible forest fire that couldn’t be contained. I imagined planes flying overhead, while heroic firefighters and rangers struggled to make it stop.

That’s when my aunt said she’d read in the local paper that some fires were set on purpose by firefighters to “rejuvenate” the soil, spawn new growth, and create new habitats for wildlife.

Say what?

Such an act defied logic to me. The thought of firefighters taking blowtorches to wooded areas and just watching them burn? For their own good?

Apparently, destruction isn’t always a bad thing. It can be a natural, and at times necessary, part of the circle of life, since it causes rebirth and growth.

What if you applied this metaphor to your own life? You’d learn that it’s okay to go through hard times and to watch jobs or even relationships go up in flames in order to create a fresh start. It might hurt, but like scorched earth, this sets the stage for starting new.

Hard times, then, are not the problem. Your belief that hard times are bad is the problem.

Two years ago, my book proposal for a self-help book for mothers was rejected by publishers, and it felt like a crushing loss at the time.

I was really sad. And I threw myself lots of pity parties with “woe is me” soundtracks in the background. But fast forward two years and that rejection ended up being the fertilizer I needed to help foster and grow my book’s premise into something bigger, better, and far more powerful. I actually needed that first book idea to fall.

Notice how I said “fall” instead of “fail.” Rejection isn’t always failure, just like fires aren’t always bad.

What are you going through that feels like a failure, but down the road might look a lot like fertilizer? Loss, rebirth, and growth can serve a purpose, and that purpose is to create greater richness in our future lives. 

We just have to start looking at it that way.   

Katherine Wintsch