How to Get Past Failure

By Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche • 5 min read


Win or lose

For most of us, the fear of failure is always lurking in the back of our minds. We criticise ourselves constantly and feel that we’re not good enough. However — and this is very funny — a total failure by one person’s standards could be a great success by somebody else’s standards! Some people would see what you believe to be your worst performance as a huge accomplishment. Likewise, what someone else sees as their crowning achievement might, through your eyes, be nothing short of a disaster. Whether it’s win or lose all depends on how we’re perceiving and labeling it. Still, people walk around feeling a lot of judgment, inadequacy, and guilt. We could ask, then, “What is a real failure?”

Move Beyond Failure

Hitting a wall

I often tell the story of the time I asked my father a similar question: what if you hit a dead end? If there’s no hope, what can you do? My father replied, “If you come to a high wall, take your backpack and throw it over to the other side.” And then what happens? Once you’ve committed, you’ll have to use your innate intelligence, senses, and feelings to find a way forward yourself. As my father said, “You need to accept that you can’t get straight through the wall. No matter how strong you are, if you bang your head against it, you’ll only hurt yourself. But there are other, different ways to get to the other side, especially when you begin to accept impermanence. There is much potential, and many possibilities. The failure is giving up. Accepting that you can’t get straight through, and letting go of that, is not the same as giving up. So, don’t give up!”

A flexible outlook

Even when you come to what seems like an insurmountable obstacle, there’s always some hope there. But, if you can’t make progress in a straightforward way, accept that reality, and change something. Look for different options, different doors to open, different answers. The most important thing to remember is that you have great strength within yourself. You have capacities and skills — all of us do! We all have unique characteristics. We are more than what we believe about ourselves. We are amazing, actually. So, there is hope. Don’t give up, but try to explore outside the box. I think that principle has really helped me throughout my life. When everybody else is looking in one direction, on a certain level, I’m looking in another. I have always found a solution. The answer I come up with might yield a result similar to the one everyone was aiming for, but I might not try the most obvious tactic to arrive at it.

“Within our perceived weaknesses and imperfections lies the key to realizing our true strength.”

– Mingyur Rinpoche –

Learn from yourself

It is really important that we try to believe in ourselves. Of course, sometimes we make mistakes, but we can be willing to learn from them. Even if we feel like a failure, we can view that failure as a chance to grow. We all have the ability to transform our setbacks and difficulties. And ultimately, if we use everything that happens to us as a friend — as a support for our meditation practice and our personal transformation — nothing can really stand in our way. If all the obstacles become opportunities, then a problem may become a solution.

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About the Author

By Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

In his approach to teaching meditation, Mingyur Rinpoche integrates traditional Buddhist practice and philosophy with the current scientific understanding of the mind and mental health – making the practice of meditation relevant and accessible to students around the world. Mingyur Rinpoche is the author of the best-selling book The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness, as well as Joyful Wisdom: Embracing Change and Finding Freedom, In Love with the World: A Monk’s Journey Through the Bardos of Living and Dying, and many others.

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