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How Rejection and Failure Make our Lives Better

Updated: May 7, 2022

People who are not satisfied with their careers often choose to stay because it’s safer to remain in a role you dislike than to risk failure or rejection. But people who risk failure and rejection to follow their dreams often end up living happier, more fulfilling lives with less regret.


Deciding to advance your career or make a professional change is exciting. It involves believing in yourself and your potential, living a life more aligned with your purpose and values, stepping off the sidelines, and stepping into the arena. It can also be intimidating. Many people remain in jobs that deplete them because it’s easier than re-evaluating their identity, starting over, making a switch, and developing a career search strategy.


A career search strategy requires effort, thought, time, and courage. It can involve reflecting on your values and goals, engaging in research, building relationships, joining professional associations, refining your interview skills, and updating your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile. Scariest of all, it can involve feelings of failure and rejection.


Not receiving a job offer after you put your heart and soul into an interview can be a terrible feeling. It can cause us to spiral into negative thinking and let ourselves believe we are not enough. In Amber Rae’s book “Choose Wonder Over Worry,” she shares the experience of having her book proposal rejected several times before finding the publishing company that selected her work.


When one publisher stated, “It’s not personal; it’s just not the right fit,” Rae reflected, “Her words It’s not personal; it’s just not the right fit comforted me with the rejection email I had just received. It didn’t mean I wasn’t ready. It didn’t mean something was wrong with me. It didn’t mean I am not good enough or unworthy. It didn’t mean I should conceal and hide who I am to fit other people’s description of who I ought to be. Hell no. It just meant that it’s not the right fit. And my job was to keep showing up. To keep putting myself out there. To keep doing the work. To keep speaking my most raw and honest truth. And to expand and step even more powerfully into who I am and what I want.”


When applying to and interviewing for new positions, it’s important to understand that the right opportunity will present itself when it’s the best, most natural fit for you. There is so much behind-the-scene information that an interviewer cannot see. Perhaps the company had an in-house employee they intended to hire the whole time, but they were legally required to post the job and endure the interview process. Or maybe one of the other applicants was the boss’s daughter. Or, perhaps the organization recently received budget cuts and isn’t able to hire anyone for the position after all. Unfortunately, we may not always know the exact reason we weren't offered a job. But we have to continue to persist and believe that if we don’t receive an offer, it’s because it wasn't the right fit, and there is a better opportunity out there.


When I moved to Colorado from New York in August 2021, I experienced a period of time that involved interview after interview, and rejection after rejection. It was not an easy time. Eventually, I was offered a role that is an incredibly aligned fit. The time in between jobs allowed me to pause and reflect on my career in new and creative ways. The role I ended up receiving put me in a position where I am able to balance security and passion at the same time. It was 100% worth the wait. I had to just keep showing up, putting myself out there, doing the work, and believing in myself.


People who are not satisfied with their careers often choose to stay because it’s safer to remain in a role you dislike than to risk failure or rejection. But people who risk failure and rejection to follow their dreams often end up living happier, more fulfilling lives with less regret.


According to Daniel Pink, author of “The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward”, it is more common for people to regret things they didn’t do rather than things they did do. He explains that while failure is an emotion we are able to metabolize, regret is an emotion that is not as easily processed.


For example, if we take the risk of applying to a new job, but don’t get the offer, we can experience the feeling of failure. And that is not a positive feeling. However, we are able to process failure and eventually release it. Regret, on the other hand, is not an emotion we are able to let go of as easily. Regret hangs on. So, if you decided not to apply for the job because you were too scared to take the risk, you may always wonder if you should have gone for it, and you may always regret not trying. If you’re faced with a decision where you want to go for something, but you’re afraid of failing - remember that it is easier to live with and let go of failure than to live with the regret of not trying.


Although making a professional change can be the more difficult choice, it is also the more rewarding choice. Enduring rejection and failure is painful, but it’s a strengthening and rewarding learning process. It’s commonly part of living a courageous life and obtaining a meaningful career. It makes us stronger, wiser, and more confident in both our personal and professional lives.

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