It feels good to achieve something, doesn’t it? After all, who signs up to try with the intention of failing? It’s not unreasonable to think that with enough effort, you can achieve success. But what if you put in the effort and you don’t “win”?
Last summer, I took the Japanese Language Placement Test. By the time I submitted the exam after 3 grueling hours, I knew I wouldn’t pass. I was right: I didn’t pass. But that’s not all. I didn’t set aside as much time as I would have liked to study, but would set aside pockets of time at my university’s library or during my down time to work on practice questions. Unlike when I took the exam 3 years prior, my comprehension and time management had improved: I could actually answer (even if it meant guessing) every question with enough time to check my answers. Sitting in the classroom among other test takers about the same age as my students brought me back to the classrooms in New York where I eagerly grappled with Japanese. I did my best that day, and I refuse to dismiss the amount of growth that occurred simply because I did not get the desired result.
When something doesn’t work out, it’s so tempting to focus on the failure and how much effort you feel you’ve wasted. I’ve had job applications ignored or turned down, I’ve been on several unsuccessful dates, I’ve felt the sting of not being chosen for opportunities I truly felt were mine to win. I won’t go as far to say that I am glad those experiences happened, but they did provide me the insights that made me grow into the person that eventually got the jobs, relationship, and opportunities that are so much better than what I could have hoped for. Growth takes time and is not as exciting as winning, yet it is necessary to assess the losses and appreciate the wins that will come.