Don’t call it failure, call it feedback

Whenever we try to do anything challenging, we may sometimes fail. However, the word ‘failure’ has a sense of negativity that doesn’t reflect the complexity of reality. 

To address that complexity, we can rephrase the situation: not “I failed,” but, “I got a result, just not the result I wanted.” Aren’t we merely playing with words? No, we are redirecting our attention. Instead of lamenting that our attempts left us empty-handed, we appreciate that we got something tangible that we can learn from. An unwanted result is feedback that can help us understand what we did wrong and what we can do better next time. 

To treat unwanted results as feedback, not failure, we need to approach our work objectively, even clinically. Such an approach is intrinsic to the Bhagavad-gita’s call: work without attachment to results(02.47). Gita wisdom also helps us internalize this clinical approach. How? By expanding our vision of ourselves and our life. 

Vision of ourselves: Our essential identity is not fragile, being determined by external events — we don’t become losers because we have failed. Our essential identity is indestructible, being determined by our spiritual core — we are parts of the Divine and are gifted with immense potential. How can we tap that potential? Through dedication and purification: dedication to persevere through unwanted results; and purification to focus on the things that matter. 

Vision of our life: It is not just a one-shot event; it is an ongoing process of learning and growing. And we can power that process by our desire to improve and steer it with the feedback from our endeavors. By thus seeing life as an evolutionary journey, we all can grow through all life-events. 

One-sentence summary:

See the absence of the desired result not as failure but as feedback.

Think it over:

  • Why is rephrasing failure as feedback not just wordplay?
  • How can Gita wisdom help us see failure as feedback?
  • Contemplate a recent ‘failure’. What can you learn from it?

***

02.47: You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.

 

To know more about this verse, please click on the image
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Author: Chaitanya Charan

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