Temporary Failure vs Permanent Regret

Bhairavi and Ragini are twin sisters staying at Surat, Gujarat.  They were in their final year graduation, and were preparing for their CAT examinations. It was their dream to get admissions at IIM – Ahmedabad, and were burning the midnight oil to crack the all India entrance examinations which were just 6 months away!

Hailing from a lower middle class family, the sisters wanted to have their parents proud by making it big in life. They had enrolled in classes, and were diligent with their studies. Both left no stone unturned to turn this aspiration into reality.

However, destiny had some other plans!  The lassies met with a dreadful car accident just 3 months prior to the entrance exams. Unfortunately the driver lost his life, and the sisters got fractured near the spine.  They had to undergo back surgery. It took them around 6 weeks to completely recover and regain their strength. Needless to say, they lost precious time which could have been devoted towards preparing for the exams. The sisters felt awful and lost their self-confidence.  With only 5 weeks left to the exams, the family started contemplating if the entrance exams should be taken the next year.  While Bhairavi was sure that she would not want to appear for the tests unprepared, Ragini was initially in two minds, but decided to give it a shot.

Although Ragini appeared for the exams, she was not very happy about the way she answered the entrance exam. Once the results were out, Ragini appeared for the Group Discussion and Personal Interview. To everybody’s dismay, she missed the IIM – Ahmedabad admission only by 2 marks!!! She was heartbroken to say the least. Had the accident not taken place, she could have studied harder and secured admissions.

But as they say, life is unpredictable. Destiny yet again had different plans. Fifteen days later, Ragini got a call from IIM – Ahmedabad asking if she would be keen on taking admission in the premier institute. A few placed students had dropped out as they had secured admissions abroad. She could not believe this.  With tears in her eyes, she broke this happy news to her parents and Bhairavi.

What was the difference between Bhairavi’s and Ragini’s decisions? Why did circumstances turn in Ragini’s favour? The answer is very simple. Both the sisters had the fear of Failure.  But Ragini was willing to give it a try, whereas Bhairavi decided to opt out, resulting in nothing but Regret. Its noteworthy here that Ragini’s fear was temporary, though Bhairavi’s regret was permanent. “I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying.” –Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO, Amazon.

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Let us assume for a moment, that Ragini would not have secured admissions. What would she lose? I can’t think of anything. The hindrance is in our outlook towards failure. Failure does not mean a full-stop in our journey. It is only a minor hindrance through which we need to learn and move on. Failure propagates understanding of the things that need to be fixed in order to attain success. The question is, would we rather live with the regret of doing something and failing, or forever wonder at what may have been had we acted? Failure is a crucial element of progress. Success and failure are mysteriously linked. Success can be achieved after failure, but regret can never lead to the creation of anything. Bravery is accepting failure as an opportunity. Regret is lacking the courage to act. “It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that counts.” – Zig Ziglar

One of the beliefs that NLP practitioners hold is that, we should not consider failure as failure, but as feedback. If we treat anything that might go ‘wrong’ as feedback (rather than failure), we become more objective and can learn from it. When we label something as a failure, we look at it negatively, which hinders in achieving our objectives. It’s critical we understand that failure is not a prevalent condition; it is a stage which can be progressed though. Fall Seven, Rise Eight’ – Japanese Proverb

Failure promises the opportunity of reward if we learn through mistakes. Regret is accepting our current limitations. Success is never final and failure is never fatal. It’s the courage that counts. Regret is letting failure defeat us and never knowing what might have been. “Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be” – John Wooden

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Successful failure can be measured in actions and what we have learned from it, whereas failure without action leaves the possibility of regret. Mindless, ignorant and imprudent failure that we don’t learn from is ineffective. It captures our psychological progress and deters us from trying again. To succeed we need to ignore everything else and focus on the process of learning from our mistakes. I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done’- Lucille Ball

Life is not just about winning. It’s also about losing and finding happiness, learning from experience, appreciating the memories, and realizing that every step is worth our while. But we’ve got to be willing to take necessary steps with a positive attitude. We should make the best of our situations and available resources. Complaining won’t get us anywhere. “We can complain that rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses” – Abraham Lincoln

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We must be aware, that if we have gotten this far, surely we can reach better places. It is important to pat ourselves for the journey thus far. We should live with unwavering faith believing that all our goals are possible to achieve with sheer determination and positive effort. But the important thing is to try. It’s OK to fail, but surely not ok to live in regret for the rest of our lives. I would like to conclude with a beautiful line mentioned by John Green – “What is the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?” Think about it….


About Karan Gandhi

HR Professional with expertise in learning & development, employee engagement, counseling and training. Likes reading, music, blogging, gadgets and movies. Follows current affairs.
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