Imagine you’ve set a goal to run your first 5K. You’re really excited—you’ve bought new shoes and told your friends all about it. But a few weeks into training you pull a hamstring and have to stop running. You’re frustrated, bummed out and even feel a bit ashamed. (Why did you tell so many people?!)

Not reaching a goal stings. It can be easy to lose motivation and potentially give up when we don’t make as much progress or aren’t as “good” at something as we think we should be. Failure can be scary, but it’s important to realize we’re all human and it’s quite common to not meet goals.1 Let’s talk about failure and how we can become more comfortable with it, learn from it and even grow from it.

It’s normal to fear failure1

What might happen if you don’t achieve what you set out to? The idea of failure is uncomfortable and many of us avoid it at all costs. It can stir up painful emotions like anger, embarrassment and shame. When you try something new, there’s always the chance it won’t go the way you planned.

And it’s OK to “fail”

We all make mistakes and sometimes fall short of our goals—no one gets it right every time! We’ve all experienced setbacks. Realizing you’re not alone in feeling that way can be quite empowering. Try to give yourself grace and be kind to yourself. It can be helpful to think of a new opportunity not as a chance to fail, but instead as an experiment.1

You don’t have to be the best

It’s not necessary to be good at something to enjoy it. If it brings you satisfaction or happiness, it’s worth doing! You may be light-years away from finishing that scarf, but the tap-tap-tap of your knitting needles gives you peace. Your painting of a beagle may look more like a bagel, but swirling watercolors over paper ignites your creativity.

Just because you’re not good at something now doesn’t mean you won’t ever be good at it

It can be easy to give up on a goal or hobby if you don’t excel at it immediately. Give yourself time and space to improve. Embrace the learning process, even if ends up being a little different than what you imagined. And as you learn, celebrate your little wins along the way. Did you choose a healthy option while eating out? Spoke up at a big work meeting? Finally able to touch your ankles but not yet your toes? Taking a moment to acknowledge small wins can help you stay motivated to work toward bigger goals.

Think about your motivation for trying something new. A solid “why” can help you stay the course if things don’t go your way.

What’s your why?

Learn from failure

Even when you strike out, there’s still an opportunity to learn.1 Let’s go back to the running example from earlier—you didn’t reach your goal of completing the 5K. Try to look at the situation through a different lens. What are some positive outcomes you might not have expected?

  • You discovered a love for running. And the next time you train for a race, you’ll start more slowly.
  • You realized you didn’t love running. (Hey, now you know!)
  • You inspired a neighbor or friend to exercise more
  • You discovered that sometimes things are out of your control, and the acceptance of that imparts a sense of peace

How to cope

When things don’t go your way, it can help to:2

  • Accept how you feel in the moment. Acknowledge your emotions. You’re allowed to be upset. It is okay to question, just don’t stay there. Those feelings don’t have to define you. (This can be easier said than done, so be gentle with yourself.)
  • Reflect and reset. You may feel like you’ve “failed,” but that does not make you a failure. Plan for how you’ll do things differently next time and keep moving forward.
  • Lean on your support system. Ask for help if you’re struggling or if you need some cheering up. We’ve all been there!

Be kind to yourself

Setbacks are painful, but don’t give up. Recognize that there can be no progress without failure.1 Believe in yourself and trust the process—you’re moving forward toward success.

We all experience wins and losses. Don’t let a stumble stop you from taking another leap of faith and attempting new hobbies and goals. To live a full life, it’s necessary to take risks from time to time.1 Missteps and forks in the road are part of the journey. And if you find you need a little help along the way, we’re here for you.

Get started

Improve your mental and physical health by participating in activities you truly love. What are some movements that bring you joy?

Published April 16, 2024


This portion of the Teladoc Health website occasionally offers health, fitness and nutritional information and is provided for educational purposes only. You cannot rely on any information provided here as a substitute for or replacement of professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Teladoc Health cannot assure that the information contained on this site always includes the most recent findings or developments with respect to the particular subject matter covered.

If you ever have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional. Do not disregard, avoid or delay obtaining medical- or health-related advice from your healthcare professional because of something you may have read on this site. The use of any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk.

If you are in the United States and think you are having a medical or health emergency, call your healthcare professional, or 911, immediately.