A New Perspective on Failure, by Greg Baer, M.D.
A New Perspective on Failure

A New Perspective on Failure


I once received the following letter:


Dear Greg,


“I get so discouraged by my failures. I’ve been learning about unconditional love, or Real Love, for some time now, and I’ve had some wonderful moments when I’ve felt more loved and loving than I ever have before. But with some people—like my husband and my mother—I feel like I just keep failing, over and over. I feel like I know nothing. Just when I think I’ve learned something about loving, my husband snaps at me, and I fall right back into my old behaviors. I snap back at him or withdraw or act like a victim. I feel like such a failure.”


On many occasions I have spoken with people who have described situations like these above. We often feel like such failures when we make mistakes, but I suggest that we see our “failures” in a new light.


Imagine that you’re beginning a weight-lifting program. Right now you’re capable of lifting twenty pounds over your head, but with daily exercise you develop the capacity to lift eighty pounds. Would you call your efforts successful? I hope so. By anyone’s standard, increasing your strength by a factor of four would be considered successful.


Now let’s suppose that one day while you’re holding eighty pounds over your head, someone suddenly hangs an additional twenty pounds on the weight bar. Overwhelmed by the additional weight, you immediately lose control over the bar and drop the weights to the ground. At this point, how you see this event is very important. When you dropped the weights, did you fail?


Certainly failure would be one way of looking at the event—most people would see it that way—but we just established that you had accomplished an enormous success by increasing your ability to lift from twenty to eighty pounds. What then is another way to view this event? We might consider the possibility that when the twenty pounds was added to the bar, you just discovered the limit of your strength.


This is not a matter of positive thinking. It’s a matter of telling the truth. When you dropped the hundred pounds, you actually succeeded in lifting eighty pounds and simply learned that you were not yet able to lift a hundred pounds.


And so it is in real life. As we learn and grow in our ability to love, it can almost be quantified. For a moment, let’s consider Real Love as a power that we can be measured in, say, pounds. Each time we encounter the anger, conflict, and inconveniences that inevitably come our way as part of everyday life, we’re required to use up some of the love we possess in order to respond positively to those difficulties. Fortunately, Real Love is renewable, but in any given moment we use up at least some of the love we have as we deal with our problems.


In the beginning of our process of acquiring Real Love, let’s say we have only twenty pounds of love. Then someone makes a critical comment to us that requires us to use ten pounds of love to respond in a loving way. All is well, however, because with twenty pounds this event will not empty us out. But what if two people make critical comments—which requires ten pounds for each one—and we’re also physically tired, which saps another ten pounds. That leaves us with nothing—less than nothing, in fact—and then we tend to respond with those Getting and Protecting Behaviors that cause so many problems in relationships: We lie, get angry, act like victims, and run. We all know what happens after that: Getting and Protecting Behaviors are exchanged and relationships are injured.


As we exercise our love, it grows, and let’s suppose that with practice we acquire eighty pounds of Real Love. Now we can love people in even more difficult situations. We can remain peaceful and loving despite more intense attacks and insistent manipulations. But now imagine that even though you have eighty pounds of Real Love, one day your husband or wife comes home from work and bites your head off with an especially sharp comment. In an instant you are transformed from a condition of relative contentment to one of emptiness, fear, and defensiveness. You snap back at him or her, act like a complete victim, and stomp out of the room.


And now you feel like a failure. But is that the truth? Did you really fail? Over the last several months your ability to love has grown from nearly nothing to eighty pounds. How could that be a failure? It’s not, and you need to reconsider the event with your husband. Rather than believing that you failed with him, consider instead that you simply discovered a circumstance that required more love than you had in that moment. That’s all that happened. You had eighty pounds of Real Love, and in order to respond lovingly to your spouse—or whoever it might be—on that occasion, ninety-five pounds would have been required.


So you just made a mistake and learned how much love you had, as well as how much love you didn’t have. Big deal. So what? You’ve learned only that you have more work to do, and don’t we always? That’s the whole idea of learning and growing. What I’m suggesting here isn’t some technique of positive thinking, meant to cover up our mistakes. It’s a truthful assessment of our behavior and growth. We need to see the occasions when we’re unloving not as failures but as information, reminding us that we have more to learn. Regarding our mistakes as failures can be discouraging, and we don’t need more of that.







About Greg Baer, M.D.:

For twenty years, Greg Baer, M.D. was a highly successful surgeon, teacher, civic leader, and entrepreneur. But despite all his accomplishments, wealth, and respect, he felt empty

and unhappy. He became a drug addict and nearly committed suicide. In his subsequent search for genuine happiness, he learned some principles that have changed the lives of hundreds of thousands.


After Dr. Baer retired from one of the busiest solo ophthalmology practices in the United States, he began a new career of writing, teaching, and speaking. He has:


   • Written 16 books about relationships, marriage, and parenting. Real Love—The Truth About Finding Unconditional Love and Fulfilling Relationships* AND Real Love in

Marriage—The Truth About Finding Genuine Happiness Now and Forever* were published by Gotham Books, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Real Love has been translated into multiple languages, with 8 books of the series published in China. Other books by Dr. Baer include:

       Real Love in Parenting—Nine Simple and Powerfully Effective Principles for Raising Happy and Responsible Children*

       Real Love in Dating—The Truth About Finding the Perfect Partner*

       Real Love in the Workplace

       Real Love and Freedom for the Soul – Eliminating the Chains of Victimhood*

       Real Love for Wise Men and Women—The Truth About Sharing Real Love

               (* Also available as Audiobooks)


   • Produced the three-CD audio series, The Truth About Love and Lies.


   • Produced the 6 DVD set (with Workbook), The Essentials of Real Love.


   • Produced the PBS television special, "Real Answers," viewed nationwide.


   • Appeared on over 1500 radio and television programs from coast to coast. Dr. Baer has a compassionate and engaging media presence, typified by the following review:

“You’ll want to listen to this program in a doorway — it’s like an earthquake!

He rocked my foundation! Greg Baer touched me deeply.

He’s got the answer to finding happiness in life.”

(Tony Trupiano, Talk America)


   • Counseled personally with thousands of individuals and couples, profoundly changing their lives with the principles and power of Real Love.


   • Conducted over 300 seminars and corporate trainings and delivered speeches to audiences across the country where he has taught the principles of Real Love.


   • Developed a comprehensive website that offers Real Love education through video coaching, webcasts, chat rooms, and much more.


Said Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager, the best selling management book of all time, Real Love is the single most powerful motivator in a leader’s toolbox. Clear and unsentimental, this book is required reading for a profitable workplace.”


Dr. Baer and his wife, Donna, are the parents of seven children and live in Rome, Georgia.


                              For more information visit: www.RealLove.com

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