When I was a child my challenges were small. Learning to brush my teeth, dress up, read, memorize ABCs, was not too difficult. My effort almost always led to the desired outcome. As a result, here is a simple formula I wrote up in my head: Effort + Intentions = Outcomes.
As the years rolled by, complexity and competition came into the mix. Not everyone could be on the varsity team; only a few got the scholarships. I couldn’t get into the medical school of my choice. No matter my effort and intentions, if others were brighter, luckier and worked harder, I would fall short. The formula changed to: Effort + Intentions + X factor = Outcomes.
However, my mind remained oblivious to the X factor. I still depended on the outcomes to feel good about myself. This was a recipe for disappointment.
Gradually, failures piled up. And I wasn’t prepared. Not knowing that failures are an integral part of the mosaic, I fought with failures. I blamed myself. I cried, got disillusioned.
Just when it all seemed dark and hopeless, a crack opened, and a little light came in. I learned about the X factor. I realized that this X factor wasn’t in my control. Over time, that realization changed my relationship with failures. As a result, I internalized two insights:
One, failures are an integral part of the tapestry. Best to ride the wave of failures and stop calling losses as losses. A material loss often spawns a life lesson and grit. Losses are thus partial gains. It could have been worse, and I am grateful it isn’t.
Two, recognizing the reality of the X factor, best to anchor my self-worth on effort and intentions and not the outcome.
I have also realized that the X factor includes not only external contingencies but also my limited vision. My physical eyes and that of my mind can only see so far. Often, I don't know right from wrong, can’t see the good in the bad. Embracing my constraints, I now believe that if I try my best to be right, then I have a right to be wrong and be forgiven.
Friend, anchor your self-worth today in your effort and intentions and not the outcome, and know that when you try your best to be right, you earn a right to be wrong and be forgiven.
Dr. Amit Sood answers your questions about stress, resilience, happiness, relationships, and related topics in his column. Email email@example.com.