In this post, we’ll have a quick talk on why learning from defeat is important and how to make sure you learn the right lessons.
Defeat is one of these universal human experiences. It doesn’t care about your background or social influence. It just is the way it is. Even the blessing factor has little to no effect on the fact that you will sooner or later get defeated/loose at something in your life. In fact, the longer you live, not only the greater the odds that this will happen, but that it will happen again, and again. This is not meant to be negative. It’s just a fact of life.
Learning from defeat
It follows that since defeat is an unavoidable part of life, we’ll do better by learning from it, and even more important to learn the right lessons. Doing so will set us on a path of fewer and fewer defeats, and as a result more and more victories, all because some of our losses come not from new mistakes, but from old lessons we didn’t learn from.
The problem of learning the wrong lessons
Learning the wrong lessons is one of these big and yet underreported problems. We are used to moving on once we get that feeling of insight we’re all familiar with. We don’t take the time to ponder on whether our insight really was an insight or some misunderstanding of what mother life was trying to teach us.
The result of fake insights is a life of confusion, where we keep on making the same mistakes over and over again while stopping ourselves from relearning because we strongly believe we’ve learned the lesson successfully at the first try.
When to start reflecting
The feeling of defeat is by far one of the most unpleasant human experiences. The experience is sometimes so bad that we avoid doing anything that would lead us to it, like taking chances that might also lead us to success. We are often so afraid of failure that we prefer to give up the chance to win.
This is not the worst of the problems. The worst thing comes moments after the reality of defeat sinks in. We’re emotional and maybe even confused. When we might have thought we would win, and even felt the smell of the prize within our nostrils. Now we begin to question our own judgment. This is the worst time to start reflecting.
The reason why I say this is that depending on our mentality and our level of maturity it’s very easy to arrive at the wrong conclusions for why we lost, and as a result learn the wrong lessons from the painful experience.
Why is this a problem? Well if you learn the wrong lessons from the experience you will live the rest of your life in ignorance. Add that to the fact that lessons learned emotionally are much better remembered than memories made in a calm state of mind. In some ways we can say that not only you remember the lesson, but your body does too.
So the best time to reflect on your defeat is when your mind is the most likely to be clear and unbiased. That is after your nerves and emotions are calm. This would make it that much easier that the real lessons from the defeat are learned even if they are not pleasant.
At this time your rational self is more likely to be online and you’re more willing to begin taking the necessary steps to win no matter how difficult the might seem.
Intellectual versus emotional learning
There is a concept of intellectual and emotional learning. I became aware of it once I made a habit out of getting past obstacles. Intellectually most of us are exposed to the idea of what it feels like to go through obstacles and what to do when we think we can’t. Having this feeling, however, is a much more profound lesson. So although we might agree we should get past obstacles and that there are rewards associated with it, we can only truly agree when we get past our first obstacle.
This is why the next point makes sense. Because we can learn the same lesson twice, learning what others learned before we “learn” it for ourselves is possible.
Most common lessons to learn from defeat
There are several common lessons to learn from defeat. Again learning them now doesn’t mean you’ll understand these lessons completely. You’ll have to go through them. But then as I said before at the moment of defeat there is always the chance of learning the wrong lessons. So by reading through other people’s experiences with defeat, you get to know what kinds of lessons to look for, and perhaps, you now get the chance to learn these lessons at a deeper level, by living through them. Below are a few.
Defeat today doesn’t mean defeat tomorrow
This is probably one of the deepest and most difficult to learn lessons from defeat. The reason why I consider it to be one of the deepest is that believing otherwise will likely prevent you from getting what you want if you don’t get it on the first try. The crazy thing is that most things worth having are difficult to acquire. They often require multiple tries and failure is a given. So if your life strategy is to try things only once and to quit when you fail the only path to a great life is only based on luck. You can be wildly successful but the nagging feeling that what you have can easily slip through your fingers can be a form of misery even in success.
The reason why it’s difficult is that it takes a practice of failure after failure with sprinkles of success mixed in for the lesson that failure today doesn’t mean failure tomorrow to sink in.
The answer is likely within
Another common and powerful lesson from defeat is that the answers are likely within. This is why trying to reflect when you’re down is a bad idea. Again when we lose we get emotional. We’re much less likely to blame ourselves for the results. Blaming the world is much more comfortable because doing otherwise requires us to think less of ourselves at least to some degree.
The world is the best scapegoat that ever existed. We get to blame it for Our mistakes. Our laziness and insecurities. Our shortcomings and even the fact that we can’t blame ourselves for anything. All because the world doesn’t talk back.
The point is that defeats/losses are more often than not a direct/indirect result of something we did ourselves. The quicker you accept this lesson the quicker you can go through the defeat -> try again … cycle that any worthy goal requires from us.
Preparation as a way to increase your odds of success
The last and by no means the last or least important is the lesson that preparation can go a long way to increase your odds of success.
When we think preparation we usually think sports or any other kind of competition, but this applies to virtually every area of life.
Preparation allows you to oversee mistakes before you make them when it counts. In some ways, this and the last lesson go hand in hand. You can only come to the conclusion that your preparation was inadequate if you can on some level accept the blame for the fact that you are the problem.
Learning lessons from defeat is difficult. Clarity is n some ways subjective. We can have two people with completely opposite points of view experience that sense of clarity and insight with regards to their own points of view. This is why trying to learn the lessons of failure from people who went through it can be so useful.
One last strategy to avoid learning the wrong lessons from failure is to ask other people from their input. Although there have been cases in history where the masses have been wrong, more often than not if more than one person sees things in a certain way, chances are that they are right and you should listen. So the suggestion is to try to hear from other people what they make of your experience.
It is all about knowledge and experience 😉
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