7 Reasons Why Failing is Better than Quitting

by Belinda Munoz on September 24, 2009


A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent in doing nothing. — George Bernard Shaw

We all have goals.  Whether or not we consider ourselves over- or under-achievers, goals are essential to our development and they are a natural part of life.

When we set a goal, we generally have the motivation to achieve it and have an idea of how to make it happen.  Some have an intuitive approach.  Others prefer to make specific plans or set of steps that they can follow on a schedule.


A toddler’s daily goal could be to get as much play time in his day as possible.  In order to achieve this, he does everything in his power to ignore his schedule, trick/charm his caretaker into playing along, even avoid snack time, and if all else fails, activate the old standby strategy of crying like a baby in hopes of subjugating his caretaker through a manipulative appeal for sympathy.  With steely determination, he uses all his skills and resources to realize his goal.

When we enter the teenage years, one of the potentially cruelest times in our lives, many of us aim, at the very least, to fit in and not be bullied (yes, for some, learning is a by-product of going to school).  This all-important goal of fitting in can become all-consuming to an insecure and awkward teenager on a journey to self-discovery.


As we come into our being and learn that following the herd is not the best way to go, we set goals that are geared toward our own independence. Sooner or later, we learn that doing what our friends do may not be right for us, and that we have a unique set of interests and motivations that we must pursue.  Armed with a newfound sense of autonomy, we learn to think for ourselves, carve our own path, follow our own desires and set goals that are in tune with our true selves.

Some of us strike out on our own, stoking our creative genius by pursuing the arts, or writing, or music or entrepreneurship.  Others take a more traditional route by going to college with the goal of earning a degree which allegedly will help us enter the work force in order to contribute to society by doing something we enjoy and get compensated for.

In our adult years, we continue to set goals: to become a better parent, to have a fulfilling life with or without a partner, to grow a sufficient retirement fund, to make an impact in this world and to build a legacy.


But what happens when along the way, things get difficult, the challenges seem overwhelming or downright insurmountable, and reaching our goal appears to be next to impossible?  What happens when the plan we laid out so neatly starts to look muddled, when we begin to feel like we don’t know what we’re doing and, instead of seeing a clear path to success, there is only failure looming in front of us?

Do we pick ourselves up and plow through with determination anyway, or do we quit?

We can all relate to the psychological ramifications of failure.  In general, it’s not good for our morale, it’s discouraging, it hurts our ego, it doesn’t make us want to celebrate and, let’s be honest, we generally try to avoid it at all cost.

All things considered, is failure really that bad?  And is quitting better than failing?  Experts say no and I agree.  Here are 7 reasons why:

1. When we fail, we have an opportunity to try again and eventually succeed. Quitting guarantees that we won’t succeed.  It’s a non-starter.  It’s really quite predictable where we’ll be when we quit something: on a path to nowhere.  Failing, on the other hand, may set us back, but it keeps us on a path to getting where we want to be and that much closer to reaching our goal.

2. When we fail, we learn from our experiences and mistakes. In giving up, we learn nothing. When we pursue a goal and fail, we probably made a mistake or two along the way.  Something got in the way of our path to success, whether or not it was within or beyond our control.  And chances are we probably learned a whole lot in the process, what to do and what not to do, and when and how to execute plans — things we might not have learned had we been successful.  Sometimes, we might get lucky and make a mistake that yields a surprisingly good outcome.  When we give up, we prevent ourselves from having any more experiences, from making mistakes, and so, our opportunity to learn is diminished.

3. Failing makes us feel alive. Quitting does nothing to enhance our existence. Sure, failing can make us question our abilities, commitment, skills and talents. It can throw us into a tailspin or worse, send us into a depression.  At the very least, when we fail, we feel alive, and we had the guts to follow our passion. Quitting deprives us of feeling these seemingly awful things and does nothing to enrich our being.

4. In failing, the possibilities for adventure exist, whereas with quitting, we close the door on anything happening at all. We may refuse to acknowledge it at first, but failing can open up a world of adventures.  Say you set out to go into business for yourself.  Fast forward to a year later and you fail to meet your goals. Instead of thriving, you find that you’re losing capital, you’re unable to build a client base, and you failed to reach your goal of becoming self-sufficient.  At this point, you could decide to throw in the towel.  Or, you could decide to capitalize on what you did right, network with other successful small businesses, seek mentorship with an expert, or partner with a venture capitalist.  We have a lot of choices when we fail at something.  When we quit, there are no adventures in sight.

5. Failing keeps the dream alive, whereas quitting kills it. Isn’t it far better to dream than not to dream?  I’m not talking about dreaming but doing nothing to realize that dream, (though, even that is arguably better than not dreaming at all).  I’m talking about dreaming a dream that motivates us, that brings out the best in us, that transforms us into a better version of ourselves.

6. Failing makes us stronger whereas quitting doesn’t. Yes, failure is undesirable.  Yes, failing is never what we plan for when we pursue a goal.  However, more than likely, we will recover from failure.  Once we’ve recovered, we are better equipped to go out there and chase after more dreams, more secure in knowing that we’ve survived a failure.

7. Failing builds character. Quitting does nothing for our character. Think about it.  When we fail, it means we actively participated in our quest to reach our goal.  We were there for the highs, the lows, the bumps, the bruises and the imperfect landing.  Our experiences leading up to failure contribute to our character.  Quitting is avoidance. It only keeps us on seemingly “safe” ground and does nothing to enhance our character.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. — Helen Keller

Image by Perfecto Insecto

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lisa Alves September 24, 2009 at 6:22 am

Another inspiring one, Belinda, thank you. I get where you’re coming from but I do think there are some instances when quitting is the right thing to do—like a bad relationship or crooked business partner or something along those lines. Or even if you realize you may not be as talented in an area as you once thought (like the people that get a strong dose of reality when they go to American Idol tryouts). But I’ve always thought there are some goals you must continue to work towards no matter what!! And this post inspires me for those things.


2 Jeffrey Tang September 24, 2009 at 8:58 am

In some ways, I think quitting defines failure. If you experience a setback, but learn from it and move forward, you haven’t failed at all. If you decide to let the setback consume you and abandon your goals, that’s when you’ve truly failed.

Does that make sense?


3 Belinda Munoz September 24, 2009 at 9:31 am


You’re right to point out that sometimes quitting is the right thing to do — like smoking or substance abuse or a toxic relationship beyond repair.

In the case of getting a strong dose of reality re: one’s talents, yes, it can be discouraging. But I think there’s nothing wrong with pursuing something you really want as long as you learn from the process, find value/learnings along the way, and don’t harm yourself or anyone.

Makes perfect sense! It can be tough to learn and move on, we may have to take a break or lay low for a bit, but it would be a total waste to be permanently held back by a temporary setback.


4 Karlil September 25, 2009 at 1:57 am

Great post Belinda. Personally, I don’t believe in the word failure. And I think it’s important not to assume such word exist. Setbacks yes, but failure, no. In all honesty, I believe the only time one can fail is when he’s dead and there’s nothing he can do to make his way to succeed. As long as one is still breathing, he should continue moving forward until he is truly comfortable with his surroundings.


5 Belinda Munoz September 25, 2009 at 5:51 am

Karlil, thanks for your prespective regarding failing/suceeding in relation to mortality. I agree

I myself have an aversion to the word “failure”. To me, it’s a judgment term that needn’t be because it can be limiting, constricting, even paralyzing. It can be morphed into something else — an interruption, a life lesson, or even inspiration.

What I hoped to hint at with this post is that at any given time, as long as we’re alive, we can be doing/trying something or multiple things that will benefit not just ourselves but also others. I feel strongly about this because I believe that one of the gifts of being alive is the many chances we have to enhance others, to help those in need, or at the very least, to connect with others on a truly human level.

Great to see you here!


6 Bob Bessette September 25, 2009 at 4:34 pm

Hi Belinda,
I am a big proponent of failing and yes, when you do fail, you can always make amends and succeed. I know a lot of people out there who don’t even take the risks because they are afraid to fail. The older I get it seems the more risks I take because I know that a failure only means that I’ll get it right the next time, or the time after that. I’m not as afraid to fail anymore because I know if I put my mind to it I will come out on top. Great topic for a post! So true that failing is MUCH better than quitting…



7 Belinda Munoz September 25, 2009 at 8:47 pm

Hello Bob,
I’m so glad to hear you say that! Something about getting older certainly has taught me that life is way too short to be held back by our fear of failure. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.


8 Marilou Viray-Mosley September 25, 2009 at 11:55 pm

Great post! I love that you’re able to transform failure into something that could be a source of inspiration.

Btw, I feel so behind. The last time I was here, this was a brand new site. Now there’s a lot of archives. I need to do some catching up on reading these posts. Keep up the good work!


9 Belinda Munoz September 27, 2009 at 9:47 am


I just think it’s so much better to find the good in the undesirable. To quote Maurice Setter, “Too many people miss the silver lining because they’re expecting gold.”

Thanks for reading!


10 Stephen - Rat Race Trap September 28, 2009 at 3:46 am

Belinda, this is an excellent article on the value of persistence and pushing through. These are things I strongly believe in. But there are times when you are going nowhere and you need to quit and pursue something more productive. The wisdom to know when to persist and when to change direction is the key to getting the most out of your precious time.


11 Belinda Munoz September 28, 2009 at 5:32 am

Hello Stephen,

Ahh, yes, I agree wholeheartedly. The ever-elusive wisdom can be tricky at times and we really do need to value our limited time.

My hope with this post is to also hint at goals that aren’t necessarily productivity-driven such as kindness, sympathy, thoughtfulness, becoming a nicer/better person, etc., goals that are more peace-driven.

I really appreciate you sharing your wisdom. Many thanks!


12 Ma. Liberty Viray September 30, 2009 at 8:36 pm

I enjoyed reading this blog!


13 Kim-Possibility Diva December 20, 2010 at 5:46 pm

I would like to make a distinction that I realized once about quitting and failing. There are times when quitting is in the best interest, only when it is apparent that the outcome of the situation will meet you with unfavorable results. Then quitting is wise. However, there are times when you simply “surrender” which is not quitting, but, allowing the natural course to take place. In this case, quitting and failing become non-existent and the quilt or shame is also non-existent. Surrender has a greater power, because it means there is a conscious decision to let go of what is not in your best interest. Great post, again! Thought provoking…, Kim- PossibilityDiva


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