See failure as a practical problem, not as an existential problem
During life, we all fail sometime or the other. How we respond to a failure depends on how we see that failure.
Suppose a student who is studying for an exam has wedded their whole sense of self-worth and self-identity to passing that exam. If they fail, they will feel shattered, maybe even become suicidal. Why the extreme reaction? Because they see failure as an existential problem – they feel failure has made their entire existence worthless.
However, our existence is bigger than such externals. The Bhagavad-gita explains that we are souls, who are indestructible and are therefore unaffected by worldly upheavals such as failures. Moreover, we are parts of the all-powerful supreme soul, Krishna, who is our greatest well-wisher and who orchestrates things for our ultimate well-being.
Our present life is one phase in a multi-life journey of spiritual evolution towards Krishna. During this life, our various responsibilities are our circumstantial roles in our service to him. These roles are important, but still, they are roles. We are not these roles; we exist above them, safely ensconced in our eternal relationship of service with Krishna. With such spiritual self-understanding, we learn to stay unfazed amidst life’s dualities (05.20).
Even if we face a failure in a role, we gain strength by contemplating that Krishna has some plan for us. We see that failure as a practical problem which affects our role and the responsibilities therein. Naturally, we want to succeed in that role, but we don’t see a failure therein as a personal threat to our self-identity. Being internally secure, we calmly analyze the failure and decide whether to press on till we succeed or to explore some other role and responsibility.
By thus being spiritually situated, we progress resolutely through life’s reversals towards Krishna, thereby becoming better, not bitter.
Think it over:
- What makes our reactions to failures extreme?
- How does Gita wisdom redefine our worldly responsibilities?
- How does understanding our spiritual identity change our vision of failure?
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