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Failure: A Tool for Growth

Turn your mistakes into powerful learning experiences

People naturally fear failure, but we don’t have to be scared of it. Failure offers us something instant success never could — the opportunity to learn from mistakes.In Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s message “Your Great Adventure,” he taught, “Discipleship is not about doing things perfectly; it’s about doing things intentionally.… God knows that you are not perfect, that you will fail at times. God loves you no less when you struggle than when you triumph.” 1
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Your Great Adventure,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2019
Everyone experiences failure, but how you choose to respond to it determines how it affects you.

Never give up

Basketball Hoop
Michael Jordan’s failures helped him become one of the best professional basketball players in history.
Michael Jordan, one of the greatest professional basketball players of all time, never gave up. When he was cut from his high school team, he used that failure as motivation to work harder instead of quitting. Years later, he said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot … and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed.” 2
Michael Jordan, "Thoughts on the Business of Life," ForbesQuotes, 2015,
Michael Jordan played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) in North America for 15 years. He made 12,192 shots in his career for a total of 32,292 points, 3
Michael Jordan Stats,” ESPN, accessed June 14, 2021,
the fifth-most points scored by any NBA player. 4
All Time Leaders, NBA Advanced Stats,” NBA, 2021,
He won six championships and was voted Finals MVP (most valuable player) six times. 5
Michael Jordan, NBA Advanced Stats,” NBA, 2021,

Turn failure into success

So, how can you learn from your failures and find success instead of becoming disheartened? Here are six suggestions.

1. Identify what went wrong
Do your best to analyze the situation. Failure sometimes occurs due to factors we can’t control, but it is more commonly a result of our own actions. Self-assessment can help you realize what you did well and what you can improve.

Create a plan to avoid repeating mistakes in the future.

2. Make a plan
After identifying what went wrong, consider creating a plan to avoid making similar mistakes in the future. For example, if you didn’t do well on a test and know you didn’t study enough, your plan could include writing down a study schedule for the next test.

3. Change your perspective
Try focusing on what you can learn from the mistake. For example, if you get a low grade on an essay, instead of thinking, “I’m a bad writer,” you might ponder, “What have I learned from this experience that can help me improve this paper and future assignments?” You can also humbly ask instructors, mentors, friends, or family for feedback on how to improve.

In the gospel, we are encouraged to keep an eternal perspective. This principle applies to education as well. Instead of focusing on shortcomings, try to remember your overall goals and look at the big picture to continue improving.

4. Keep going
Don’t let failure halt your progress. Elder Uchtdorf said, “Even when you fail, you can choose not to give up, but rather discover your courage, press forward, and rise up.” 6
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Your Great Adventure,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2019
It won’t always be easy, but you’ve come a long way already. You have the strength and tools to get where you want to go!

5. Use your resources
Failure — as a result of not being prepared or not doing your best — limits opportunities for learning and growth. There are many resources available to BYU-Pathway Worldwide students, including instructors, peers, tutors, and mentors. If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Part of doing your best is using all your resources.

6. Put Christ at the center

pictures of jesus smiling
Christ will help you overcome failure when you make Him the center of your life.

The Savior, through His Atonement, can help you overcome failure, both spiritually and academically. You can make Him the center of your education by praying and studying the scriptures each day, sharing your academic goals with Him, praying for extra help on assignments or tests, and finding opportunities to use what you learn to serve others.

As you do so, He will help you find success and learn from your failures.