“Sometimes the best gain is to lose.” – George Herbert

your three brainsNobody really likes to lose. It’s often painful, a kind of self-rebuke, nothing that you want to tell others about and certainly nothing you want to revisit. But everybody loses at one time or another. Sometimes loss is more prevalent than a win. Still, there are invaluable lessons to be learned in every loss — if you take the time to reflect on what has happened, what you did and what you could have done differently. The only thing that makes a loss permanent and permanently does damage is if you fail to see and understand the lesson that loss teaches.

Think of a man (or a woman) who always seems to come out on top. They never appear to experience anything bad, no outright failures or missteps, only one victory or success after another. Furthermore, they seem to glide through life without any disappointments, nothing that calls upon them to demonstrate courage in the face of adversity. While you may think that they are admirable and seek to emulate their example, there is a lie in their projected image that’s worth paying attention to. The lie is the belief that only continued and uninterrupted success is of value. It’s not and for a very good reason: it’s not indicative of humanity.

Man didn’t learn how to survive the Ice Age without trial and error. Figuring out how to use fire to cook meat took many painful lessons. Scratching out symbols and images on cave walls and hoping with each attempt to communicate didn’t happen overnight. Was that three-toed stick figure supposed to warn of danger, indicate a cache of food, or let fellow cave residents or clan members know he or she won’t be home for dinner? Surely a few miscalculations went into the overall learning process.

And so, it continues to this day. What if you didn’t get that promotion at work or make the Dean’s list at school or, worse yet, lost your job? Yes, it hurts a lot and you’d much rather you achieved the success than what happened, but does that loss mean you give up altogether? Or do you take note of how you could have done better and revise your plan so that you make use of the lessons for the next time you make the attempt?

Another crucial point about losing and how it can teach so much is that if something is too easy and effortless, there’s a tendency to devalue it. How could it be important or so valuable if you exerted hardly any effort at all? Granted, some actions that you do all the time can become seemingly effortless, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have value. The key is to be present in the moment of everything you do, striving to be fully aware and in tune with your actions always. So, even if you don’t achieve instant success, when you live in the moment you are more fully aware of the time, place and action you were involved in when you went awry. It’s much easier to pinpoint the lesson and adjust going forward. That’s called planning ahead and requires formulating some sort of plan.

It’s also wise to remember that teaching yourself that there’s much to gain from a loss takes time. Despite how easy it sounds, it doesn’t come easy. Yet the ultimate satisfaction you’ll feel when you do succeed is worth the small price you pay for getting there.

The next time you incur a loss, your self-esteem takes a hit, you make an incredible blunder due to carelessness, rushing through a project, not double-checking your work, or the marketplace or competitors snatch the win away from you at the last moment, take heart. Maybe this is the universe snapping you awake, saying, “Pay attention here.” Learn the lessons inherent in loss, for they are not only there for you to witness, they are some of the most valuable you’ll ever encounter.