So, today in the session with my teacher, we read an article about failure, and the three stages of failure. The article was written by James Clear, author of the bestselling book Atomic Habits. My teacher is quite good at pulling out interesting reads from around the globe and discussing topics that aren’t always related to spirituality. He wants us to have a broader outlook to life and he lives by it himself. So, the article spoke about the three stages of failure, the first being the How phase of making mistakes, the second being the What phase and the third and final phase being the Why phase of making a mistake. 

Stage 1 is also called the failure of tactics

Stage 2 is also called the failure of strategy 

Stage 3 is also called the failure of vision 

So, the reason James Clear lays out these stages and explains them in detail is because he wants us to best learn when to stick with or quit with a decision. I would assume this framework can be used in many areas of life, and not just business or work. So I thought I would give it a shot and use this framework for relationships and see where it takes me. So let’s start. 

The first step is the failure of tactics, so let’s consider what could these tactics be in a relationship. Every relation is formed on a few set of promises, a promise to love the other person as they are, a set of boundaries important to each person and a set of communication guidelines. The promises are usually made when one gets married or starts dating, the presumption that your partner won’t try to change you is something you discover as time passes and setting communication and boundary rules with your partner is something that needs to be stated in every relationship at the very beginning. Most of us forget to do all of this. But what if you weren’t really taught any of this and so you figure things as you go along in a relationship just like how you do in business? You can be taught a hundred frameworks in business school but the real learning happens on the ground and that’s how I see it even with relationships. There are so many factors that determine which tactics you will use and whether both partners are on the same page when it comes to learning and growth, how open they’re to diverse topics and most importantly the willingness to listen to their partners opinion even if they don’t want to buy into it.

James Clear teaches us that 

There are three primary ways to fix Failures of Tactics.

  1. Record your process. 
  2. Measure your outcomes.
  3. Review and adjust your tactics.

It’s a nice idea to check and see if we are doing any of the above in our relationships. Are you really recording or in other words checking how your relationship is doing over the years? Are you checking if the tactics you have been using with your partner are giving the desired outcome of happiness and joy? If not, maybe it’s time to revisit those tactics. It’s time to rethink.

The second stage of failure is the failure of strategy or the what phase of making mistakes. What if the strategies you think you’re using in your relationship are actually not working? For example, what if your idea of a perfect date is to take your wife to a five star hotel, plan a candle light dinner, get the fanciest champagne and so on and so forth. But for your girlfriend or wife, this isn’t important, she believes in simplicity and so isn’t looking for such grandiose gestures. So basically this is one way where your strategy is wrong and you might feel you’re doing something amazing not knowing this strategy doesn’t work with your partner. This is just one example that came to mind but there can be so many such examples where what you feel is the perfect plan or strategy to love your partner may not be what they’re looking for. It’s so important to be attuned to your partners needs because if you’re not then you’re planning strategies from your perspective and that doesn’t work in a relationship. Sooner or later, it is going to fail. 

James says, There are three primary ways to fix Failures of Strategy.

  1. Launch it quickly.
  2. Do it cheaply.
  3. Revise it rapidly.

If I had to bring this in context of a relationship, I would say don’t over do things maybe for your partner. Don’t go all out because maybe your partner doesn’t really care much about it and then you will be disappointed. Instead do small things for them, which are quick, basically the smaller things in life matter. It could be making your partner a coffee or listening to them as they vent or cuddling with them or giving them a hug without saying much. Do it cheaply, I would again say, don’t over spend on expensive holidays and expensive getaways unless you are very sure that’s what both of you want. There is no point in doing it and then reminding your partner that you have got them the most expensive gift or taken them on the most expensive holidays over the years. Cheap can also be good. Money cannot buy you everything. And relationships are evolving and so both partners need to evolve and change too. They cannot expect to have the same love and butterflies they once had when they first started dating. Things change when you have a child, priorities change when any of the partners is going through a difficult period at work or in health. This needs to be taken into consideration while developing a what strategy around your relationship. For example, you cannot imagine that your wife will be as excited as you to have sex a few months after giving birth to a child or for that matter even 6 months. The strategy here has to be different in making your relationship succeed. It could mean listening to her as she talks about her struggles of being a mother or maybe she just needs some time off. 

The third and final stage is a failure of vision. It’s the why problem in a relationship. Why are you together? Why did you come together? Why did you choose your partner?  I would think this is the most important part of any relationship. As a couple, it’s so important to have a shared vision. A vision of where you want to be in a few years, a vision of how you want to live your life, a vision of how you want to grow old together. I don’t know if too many couples talk about this and if you do, that’s amazing. Because failure to have a shared vision can break a relationship is how I see it or even if it doesn’t break there will be a lack of connection and depth to your relationship which is definitely not a good sign. 

According to James Clear, There are three primary ways to fix Failures of Vision.

  1. Take stock of your life.
  2. Determine your non-negotiable.
  3. Navigate criticism.

I would think taking stock of your life would mean asking some serious questions in a relationship. Are you really having a shared vision? Can you have a shared vision? Are you growing as a couple? The second one would mean, setting boundaries and letting each other know what are your non-negotiable. What do you want your partner to do? It could mean laying down some responsibilities, which are clear to both people. I think in a relationship, it’s important to take criticism, this is where the fun begins. This is where you actually grow. Because if you can’t take criticism from the most important person in your life, then who would you take it from? Your partner has your best interests in mind and so all they want is to see you shine. This is something to think about whenever you get defensive in a relationship, or you feel you’re superior to your partner.

Phew! Writing this hasn’t been easy for me. It’s made me think in ways I haven’t. It’s made me relate to something which is more relatable in business than a relationship. I am not sure if I did a decent job of it. But writing this took a lot out of me than the other blogs I have written in the past, where things flow quite easily. But it’s nice to sometimes relate theories of business to a topic as fragile as relationships. Also, my teacher tells me, everything doesn’t have to be easy. It’s good to challenge yourself every once in a way. So, read the difficult articles, read the difficult books, and even if you don’t understand all of it, it’s fine.

Incase, you’re curious to see the article I picked this up from, follow the link below. 

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Are you able to relate to the above stages in your relationship? Do you think we as Individuals fail to see certain areas in our relationship according to James framework? Does this framework even work in the context of a relationship or was I just overthinking it?

Love and Blessings,

Miss Light

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