How to Have a Growth Mindset

How to embrace failure: Learn from mistakes with a growth mindset

Mistakes lead to great learnings. They remind you that every time you face an obstacle, you pick on an important lesson in life. Mistakes are also an essential ingredient of growth mindset.

He had a brush with death in the year 2018. So he had to abandon his lifetime goal of finishing a solo sailing race on a yacht around the world. Known as the Golden Globe Race, this challenge proved to be a formidable one and gave many valuable lessons to Commander Abhilash Tomy (retd). The most valuable lesson being that this race was not just about physical stamina but an enduring mental struggle with nature’s fiercest power on the earth, the mighty seas. Indeed, unpredictability is another name for this solo around the world sailing race, with cyclones, dipping temperatures and a long, lonely voyage testing mental toughness. Indian sailor Tomy had to live with this unfinished task for four more years, as his yacht had been destroyed and he had to be rescued having suffered severe back injuries. This incident could have possibly even taken his life. But it made him more determined and strengthened his will power even further. Abhilash Tomy is a live example of how to embrace failure and learn from mistakes with a growth mindset.

Instead of accepting failure and fearing for his life, Abhilash made a case out of this incident for his future success. He started preparing for his next race and realized that along with Naval duties, he wouldn’t be able to devote much time to building a yacht, which had to be much stronger this time round. So he took an early retirement in 2019 from the Indian Navy. Thereafter, he not only applied all his learnings from the previous failure but added to his thorough research to build a yacht considering all things that could go wrong.

In 2023, Tomy not only completed his ‘unfinished business’ but also became the first Asian sailor ever to complete the Golden Globe Race with 236 days of continuous sailing. Having accomplished an admirable feat, Tomy  etched his name in gold by embracing failure, learning from mistakes and developing a growth mindset. Learning from his tryst with failure and growth story, we have outlined some amazing ways of embracing failure and learning from mistakes..

Talk about failure

The famous American talk show host, Oprah Winfrey said this about failure – “Failure is a great teacher and, if you are open to it, every mistake has a lesson to offer.”Every failure or a mistake has the learnings of a life time, but the only condition is that you admit to it and take responsibility for the situation to clear the air and move on.

The best way to learn is to talk about them in public, as you never know what solutions or ideas might crop up which can help you sail through. If you have no way of sharing these mistakes in public, try confiding in your best friend, life partner or even grown up kids. Talking it out will get rid of the heaviness or any guilt associated with it in your heart. Doing so will also break the mental barrier which inhibiting you from exploring new possibilities.

It is important to note that admitting failure is not a sign of weakness. In fact, consciously talking about it helps your sub-conscious mind to analyse it deeper and understand what could have been avoided, allowing you to plan better next time. Hence, talking about failure is the first step towards developing a growth mindset and achieving more in life.

Make a determined effort to improve

From the time you understand and start taking decisions or indulge in life experiences of your own, you tend to attribute only success to your own efforts, not failure. In some cases, over-protective parents do not allow their kids to experience failure and in doing so, hamper their ability to improve in life. As a grown up, life becomes even more complex and whenever you are confronted with a shortcoming or a challenging situation, you tend to pick up the easy option of blaming external factors instead of accepting the responsibility to fix the shortcoming.

So remember to always make a determined effort to improve. Determination is a positive emotional feeling which helps you persevere towards a challenging task or overcoming obstacles in the way. Once you have decided to improve, you instinctively start exploring newer and better ways to overcome failures and fix flaws, putting you firmly on a growth path you once tumbled upon.

Acknowledge mistakes, ask questions

All great scientists who have made discoveries and inventions have one thing in common. They were all kid-like in their quest to answer the most basic questions in life. Like how Isaac Newton observed an apple fall and immediately asked himself why did it fall down  and not sideways or upwards? This question not only led to the discovery of gravity but set the tone for defining the laws of planetary motion, for explaining tides and for furthering modern day space exploration. All these scientists asked questions and remained curious about the whole learning process till they found the right answer.

Just like children, these scientists never shied away from accepting mistakes and never got bogged down by the mental burden of the mistakes they made.

Albert Einstein, the scientist who formulated the theory of relativity, highlighted the role of mistakes in developing a growth orientation in your thinking with his words of wisdom, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

So know that you are not the only one in this world to be making mistakes while attempting something novel. By acknowledging mistakes, you are comforting your brain and enabling it to ask further questions; for exploring ways to mitigate your way out of problems or finding innovative solutions in a creative manner.

Move ahead guided by your inner wisdom

Whether you talk about your failures or not, make a determined effort to improve or ask tough questions, as it leads to a quantum change in your repository of learnings. These learnings are controlled by your inner wisdom and if you stay true to yourself, your inner wisdom surely guides you to better decisions in life.

For the uninitiated, inner wisdom is the innate desire to be aware and stay connected with your inner repository of learnings. Inner wisdom guides you to move forward by harnessing the full power of your mind and by instilling positivity in your thoughts and actions. Quite a few times, mistakes are not a big blunder but a series of little choices that cause failure to come your way. So invoke your inner wisdom by paying close attention to all the errors, big or small, and build a growth mindset.

Robert T Kiyosaki, an American businessman and author has aptly highlighted the role of mistakes in learning to grow when he said, “Don’t waste a good mistake, learn from it.”




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