The value of failure

I used to use beginnings as a clean slate, a chance to start fresh and set goals. New Year’s resolutions, a new school year, even the first day of the month would be an opportunity to get my ducks in a row and attempt some new routine, but every time I would inevitably fail almost immediately, and the excitement turned into shame. I was a classic over-promiser and under-deliverer, even if it was just to myself.

I read an article a while back about the culture of failure in Iceland, how people throw each other parties when they lose a job to celebrate their freedom from something for which they weren’t suited. They brush off failure as something totally normal and even necessary in the journey of discovering one’s purpose. It reminds me of the opposite phenomenon in much of the United States: the epidemic of cheating and plagiarism among high school and college students who are totally terrified of failing and the cutthroat business and political tactics that value success, profits, and votes over people.

I don’t know how to go about changing a culture that values success over most anything else, but I do know how to be gentler with myself these days. I ease into beginnings, have realistic expectations, build habits instead of setting arbitrary goals, and view failure as a portal to deeper understanding instead of something to be avoided and fretted over. Some people thrive under the self-imposed pressure of setting goals. For me, I’ve learned I live a more peaceful and fulfilling life when I take it one step at a time.

Rachel Womelsduff Gough and her family ditched the city for a patch of earth in the Snoqualmie Valley. Cheered on by her husband and two blonde babes, Rachel learns by getting her hands dirty, whether it’s gardening, chicken farming, canning, neighboring, or adventuring with soulmates in wild places. She reads constantly, and can’t live without coffee, flowers, and classic mystery stories.Rachel headshot


  1. As a chronic “over-promised and under-deliverer ” who has been attempting not to be so hard on myself these words are like honey. I would love to start throwing “failure” parties what a fantastic idea!!!


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