Turn a failure into a success by admitting it, learning from it and moving past it.

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Most people hate failing. And why wouldn’t we? When it happens to us, it’s painful, embarrassing and sometimes humiliating. But the fact is that failure can be a good thing.

Not that we should intentionally set out to fall flat. That would be crazy, and also unnecessary, as setbacks are a part of life. However, neither should we allow fear of failure to keep us frozen in place. Keep in mind that a failure is a sign that we tried something, and that the willingness to fail is an indispensable step on the road to success.

OK, given that failure is inevitable and can be good, how can we “fail better”?

The most important point to remember is that a failure you’ve learned nothing from is wasted. Because failing shines a beacon on our shortcomings, it often teaches us far more than success does. At the very minimum, failing points out the wrong way to go about a particular procedure. The experience of failure may also teach us humility, if that is the lesson we need to learn, and it highlights the value of persistence.

Second, tempting as it may be, do not try to hide your failure. We can’t fix a problem we won’t even recognize. Moreover, ignoring an error may condemn us to repeat it. A wonderful thing about admitting failure is that it actually builds your credibility. Everybody knows mistakes happen. The willingness to acknowledge them demonstrates integrity and is a sign of strength.

Third, after you’ve taken time to deal with the pain, preferably with help from loved ones, it can be helpful to step away and evaluate the setback as if someone other than you was responsible. This is just a tool — no one is saying you should foist the blame onto someone else! But approaching the issue this way can take some of the sting out of it, and may help you to better analyze and adapt your approach.

Karen Burns, columnist for The Seattle Times Jobs
Karen Burns, columnist for The Seattle Times Jobs

Finally, never forget that failure is not an end point. Rather, it forms a valuable part of the foundation of your eventual success. The ability to recover from a defeat, learn from it and move forward is an ability everyone can learn, one that will serve you your whole life long.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use and of the novel “The Paris Effect.” Email her at wg@karenburnsworkinggirl.com.