5 Mantras To Put Failure Into Perspective

15/03/2017 12:13 PM IST | Updated 16/03/2017 9:59 AM IST
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In a recent post, I had written about the fear of failure and how it has the power to overwhelm us. Indeed, it manipulates our thinking and determines our behaviour. We start believing that it is our limitations and inadequacies that lie at the heart of our failure when, in fact, failure is natural and everyone has experienced it.

I had suggested that this was entirely because we live our life according to the dictates and expectations of others—be it parents, siblings, family, teachers, team mates or employers. We start living their dream and often end up falling short.

Many know what they want to do but don't quite know why they want to do it. This can often lead to failure and finally, to a sense of frustration.

This fear, however irrational it might appear, is very real and has visible external manifestations. For instance, procrastination is often a consequence of our belief that something is still lacking and that it falls short of externally imposed expectations. Consequently, many fear going to school or to work because we dread that our failings would become a matter of rebuke. We genuinely believe that we would become the butt-end of jokes and criticism. Fear makes us feel small and belittled. We start seeing ourselves as not being enough.

And yet, if we were to analyse why we fail, we would be able to do something about it. Consider, for instance, how the five mantras below could impact our thinking and behaviour:

1. Live your dream

While the external space has expectations of us, we need to know what we expect from ourselves. If we fail to do this, we would become like human robots without a mind of our own. Our actions would be mechanical and devoid of soul.

2. Know your 'why'

In an earlier post, I had written about "the power of why" and how it lies at the root of passion and transformative thinking. Passion fills us with a deep sense of mindfulness. Yet, what we are familiar with is that many know what they want to do but don't quite know why they want to do it. This can often lead to failure and finally, to a sense of frustration. If, on the other hand, we are driven by "why", in the wonderful words of Maya Angelou, we would love what we do and do what we love.

3. Control your ego

A strong sense of ego drives human behaviour. We sincerely believe we can do no wrong. Unfortunately, in a fiercely competitive environment, people—even at the highest levels—

lose their jobs, not necessarily because they are not good enough but because someone managed to edge them out or that the professional skill requirements changed. Ego prevents us, however, from accepting the situation and we resist our ouster because we feel belittled in the eyes of the external space.

4. Understand failure

To be driven by the power of why is passion. In a similar vein, to understand failure is dispassion. Zen Buddhists call this sense of equanimity the "is-that-so" awakening when success and failure, happiness and grief, black and white are not seen as contradictions but as part of a continuum. Understanding failure is the first step towards accepting it. Dispassion is when we learn to accept both failure and success without letting either overwhelm us. It helps us conquer the fear of failure.

5. Ethics and "why"

To embed "the why" outside ethics or the right thing to do can succeed but only temporarily. It can never provide long-lasting satisfaction. Passion, dispassion and compassion are the trinity leading to transformative thinking. Human thought and action succeed only when they transform lives for the better. It takes us from the mundane to the sublime. Finally, we begin to matter to ourselves. Neither failure nor success holds us hostage. Only "the why" survives and we are the better for it.

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