What Constant Failure Teaches Me About Mental Health

In the past few months, I’ve gotten more ambitious with how I plan. I’d read a book earlier this year about prioritizing your time, and it caused me to reflect on how I spend my free time. I know I’ll never get the absolute most out of my free time (who does, am I right?), but I know mental illness can create further issues when making time for myself. Because of that, I’ve tried to be more intentional and forward-thinking about what I do in my free time, which has led to a lot of good experiences I normally wouldn’t have had. However, it’s also led to failure – failure to stick to a plan or to try something new, or failure to do anything I’d set out to do that day. But it’s the failure, and what that’s taught me, that I want to talk about today.

Failing to stick to a plans or accomplish a task isn’t an experience unique to me – as people, we all share that common frustration that there just isn’t enough time in the day. There are several ways to deal with this (hey there, #riseandgrind squad), but it’s not easy to find what works best for your specific situation.

In my situation, I had to accept the fact that I’d never accomplish all I set out to do in a day. This wasn’t because of any lack of ambition – it was me finally understanding that when it comes to planning, I’m over-ambitious and have too many ideas for what I want to do. Because of this, I knew I had two choices: I could try to be more careful with how I plan my day (which is undoubtedly difficult due to my anxiety), or I can face the fact that I’m going to fail.

I use the word fail because I want to change the way I identify with failure and what that word means to me. Let’s be honest – people fail all the time. It’s safe to say that we as humans are constantly failing, but for some reason it’s a word we’re afraid to use.

One reason we’re afraid to use the word is that most people don’t provide any nuance for failure. To many, not accomplishing every task on your list of daily goals feels the same as not getting into the school of your choice. Now I don’t know how much advice I can give today on how to approach failure in some of the big ways in our lives, but these little failures are familiar to me. They are what’s taught me the most about my mental health.

To me, a person’s attitude toward failure tells me a lot about their approach toward mental health. Because let’s be honest, we all fail, in one way or another, every single day. And this constant failure provides opportunities for growth and change, whether we take those opportunities or not. I’d push you to look for those opportunities, and rather than ruminate on the failure (however small it might seem), take that chance to recognize that and name how it affects your mental health. You’d be amazed at what you can find in yourself when that happens.


7 thoughts on “What Constant Failure Teaches Me About Mental Health

  1. Stuart Danker February 17, 2022 / 6:16 pm

    What a coincidence that my word for the year is ‘fail’, and I find that collecting failures spurs me to take more action and learn more than if I were to choose a word like ‘try’ or ‘explore’. Great to see that I’m not the only one who thinks of failure this way. Thanks for this post, Nathan!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nathan Smith March 1, 2022 / 10:22 am

      I’m glad you found this post helpful! You’re totally right, we need to find things that spur us to take action – thanks for sharing!


  2. Belen Worsham February 23, 2022 / 6:16 pm

    I also struggle with being over-ambitious so I often end up feeling disappointed in myself at the end of the day if I didn’t accomplish absolutely everything I envisioned doing. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nathan Smith March 1, 2022 / 10:20 am

      It’s an annoying feeling, but I’m glad to hear I’m not alone in that. Thank you for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

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