Asking the right questions can help us better learn from failure

by | Aug 30, 2018

The adage “winning isn’t everything,” is worth repeating. We live in a hyper competitive society that values winners and winning greatly. In this environment, it’s easy to forget that often it’s failure that teaches life’s most important lessons.

Discussing failure can be difficult because it’s caught up with feelings of weakness, guilt, vulnerability and shame. Still, learning from failure is one of most important things you can do on your path to personal improvement.

Think of every setback that comes your way as part of your personal evolution. As humans, we’re constantly physically evolving. Our cells are replicating, our bodies are changing and our physiology is adapting. Evolution can also guide and influence how you think. When you adopt an “evolutionary attitude” you’ll begin to see failures (and even successes) as signals that you need to adapt and alter your methods.

Here is how you can reframe a failure as your personal evolution:

First, think about how you feel. After a failure, do you feel mad, angry, upset or ambivalent? By noticing how you feel after a failure, you will become more aware of your emotions.

Second, realize change begins with you. You can’t control how other people think or act, and so you’ll have to turn your attention to yourself. What can you do to overcome the obstacle?

Third, gain a new perspective. Ask a friend or family member to provide unvarnished feedback on what it would take to get better. It may be difficult to be self-critical or assess your situation. So, try to learn by relying on the vantage points of others.

Fourth, patience. Change takes time. So, don’t get worried or upset that you can’t turn a negative situation into a positive one overnight. Realize that you are evolving and adapting, and that over time, you will see results.

Fifth, kindness. Be nice to yourself. You don’t have to beat yourself up over a failure. You are your toughest critic. Don’t listen to your naysaying or your self-doubts. This is just negative reinforcement. Take a few long deep breaths and then exhale these negative emotions. Your path to success has to start with believing in yourself, and that means being compassionate and considerate to yourself.

Sixth, action. What have you learned from your self-assessment and the feedback of others? Now it’s time to incorporate these lessons as you try again. Maybe you’ve altered your goal to something that’s more attainable. Or maybe you’ve realized that your initial goal wasn’t worth striving for in the first place. No matter what happens with your new action, you will be doing it as a changed and more evolved person.

It’s important to be deliberate about failure, to think through what happened so that you can get better. When you recast failure as simply part of your personal evolution, you will recognize how integral setbacks are to making yourself the best you can be.

[This article was also published in CNBC]

Commentary by Deepak Chopra and Kabir Sehgal

Deepak Chopra is the co-author of The Healing Self, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of Jiyo and The Chopra Center for Wellbeing.

Kabir Sehgal is a New York Times best-selling author. He is a former vice president at JPMorgan Chase, multi-Grammy Award winner and U.S. Navy veteran. Chopra and Sehgal are the co-creators of Home: Where Everyone Is Welcome, inspired by American immigrants.