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Utopia: In Retrospect? Or In Harmony?

The results of the World Cup semi-final, and subsequent analyses by all and sundry, once again highlight how we often resort to ‘what should have been done. The retrospective alternatives, to any action that may have caused a failure, categorically become the perfect solution for a winning outcome.

How often do we find ourselves saying, “I should’ve taken the other route, the traffic is bad”? “I should’ve gone out with that guy/girl. I’ve lost him/her now” “I should’ve taken up another job”… “another role”… “picked another restaurant”…and on and on.

Is it really possible that the alternative to any decision that caused disappointment would have definitely led us to success? Is this approach keeping us from accepting ‘what is’ and sending us constantly into a fantasy world of utopia… a quagmire that’s taking us away from appreciating what we truly have? In retrospect, every other option feels perfect.

A failure is not always a mistake; it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.

For example, while our awesome Indian Team players trained for the World Cup, so did every other participating team. While our Team reached the World Cup semi-final, so did New Zealand. How does it then become so difficult to trust our players and their performance and judgment on the day? I mean isn’t that what each match stands for. The best performing Team on the day wins. We feel that if one decision and action doesn’t result in our favor, all the other imaginary alternatives would definitely give the desired outcome.



Suddenly people expect M S Dhoni to retire, Virat Kohli to give up captaincy. How can one critical loss take away all the other major wins? That’s looking at life from a very narrow lens… as if it’s a game of snakes and ladders!

Is it becoming increasingly necessary to blame someone-ourselves inclusive- to soften the blow of a defeat?

In doing so, are we setting ourselves up for stringent expectations of ourselves too? In expecting perfection from others who are experiencing all that we are merely witnessing – games, relationships, profession, education challenges… we are subconsciously conditioning our minds to reprimand us and nurse regrets for every failure or setback.

Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failure. The way you think about a fact may defeat you before you ever do anything about it. You are overcome by the fact because you think you are.
– Norman Vincent Peale

There is no such thing as failure, it’s feedback… one of the first few things I learned in my coaching practice.

While it’s good to hold ourselves accountable and ask ourselves whether we pushed hard enough, it is as important that we do not doubt ourselves in our efforts and accomplishments.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

There can be many learnings from a setback and it’s always a good idea to take stock of how to improve for the future. So what can we do when we are staring in the face of failure?

Five steps that have helped me and hopefully will help you too:

  1. Accept the situation: Understand right away that some things are NOT in your control. Remind yourself that what has happened has happened and that you cannot change it. No amount of compunction will change the reality. This attitude will allow you to be flexible and adaptable – and you may find yourself better at handling negativity and loss in future situations.
  2. Be realistic: There are many elements (people, processes, nature, environment, hormones, and more) that lead to the success or failure of something meaningful. So it seldom helps to credit or condemn any one person, even if it’s you.
  3. Keep perspective: You may not have been able to prevent what happened, but you can control your reaction towards it. Take a deep breath, and try to be as rational as possible. This is hard to do but the quicker you stop getting upset, the quicker you can use this as a lesson to move on. Remember that life goes on and one defeat may not be important in the larger scheme of things.
  4. Reflect and learn: (i) Write down all that you think went wrong or could have been done better. Make a plan to improve where needed and build competencies where these negatives can be marginalized or eliminated.
  5. Reflect and learn: (ii) Next write down all that you think worked- the collective strengths at the time. Explore what else can work in similar situations in the future. Start strengthening these positives and building on them in a steady, sustainable manner.

Be honest about how you approach failure. Don’t just be critical of yourself, because that can be self-serving. Approach it honestly, assess your performance, and assess the areas where you have fallen short. Correct them and move on. Don’t dwell on it. Don’t hold on to it.
Megan Rapinoe

Accepting failure isn’t easy. Accepting and learning from failure can not only help build our resilience but also boost our confidence.

In acceptance of the present, we find oneness. In oneness, we experience harmony. And in harmony, we ultimately find Utopia!

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