As human beings, sometimes we fail at things, even if we try really hard. It can be easy to feel hopeless after that, but for everyone out there that's ever felt like a failure, we have some exciting news. Failing can actually be good for you!
One study from the American Psychological Association examined if there were benefits to telling students it's okay to fail. They gave 111 students difficult tasks to complete, but only some were told beforehand that it was okay if they did poorly.
None of the students were actually able to complete the tasks, but those who had been given the "it's okay to fail" talk had a better capacity for memory. It was theorized that those who didn't get the talk felt more incompetent which may have interfered with their memory during the tasks.
Another study, from the Journals of Cognitive Science, aimed to understand productive failure in mathematical problem solving. Researchers found that initial failure might make you smarter in future tasks.
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One group of students in the study was given instructions on how to solve the math problems ahead of time, while the other received no instructions. No surprise here -- the group that received instruction solved the problems more easily than the other group.
However, in another test later on, the group with no instruction actually actually did better at solving the math problems, including more complex problems that hadn't been taught to either group. This suggests that failing initially at something could make you better at it the second time around.
So, failing can be helpful to future success, but keep in mind that succeeding the first time around isn't a bad thing either. One study from MIT gave monkeys a task and rewarded them if they got it right. Researchers saw that when a monkey succeeded, neurons in the reward center of their brain sent out a signal and they were more likely to get the next task right too. If they failed, there was no signal. This can be interpreted as initial success leading to future success.
Succeeding is a great way to encourage yourself to keep working towards your goals, but remember that failure can be just as helpful. Failing now might just be a recipe for future success!
-- Molly Fosco
Business Insider: 23 Incredibly Successful People Who Failed At First
New York Times: Why Flunking Exams Is Actually A Good Thing
LinkedIn: The Science Behind Failure: How It Actually Makes You Smarter