Fail Big in 2023! Cultivate Lasting Progress – Ready or not, 2023 is here! Hopefully, you are ready and have thought of at least one outrageous goal that you’d like to achieve. Why outrageous? Why not? Now’s a perfect time. You have so much potential, so much going for you, so why not use it and see where it takes you?
Is the thought of going all-in on such a goal holding you back because of a deeply-held fear that you might fail? To that, I say, you will absolutely fail! If that sounded a bit harsh, when did we make failing such a bad thing? Anytime we start something new, there will be a refining process.
Historically, accepting failure was very difficult for me because I took it as a personal hit.
I’d say to myself, “Maybe this wasn’t the goal for me, I’ll never measure up, and I’m not good enough.”
I’d sabotage my goals because I’d try something and the moment it didn’t go as expected, my goal would come to a screeching halt, failure stopping me in my tracks. I couldn’t handle it. I just wasn’t good enough. Failure is not linked to your worth as a person. Saying it like that sounds really obvious, but it sneaks its way into our subconscious thinking because culture dictates that success is great, so failure must be the opposite.
Where do we get the idea that failing is bad?
We had a lot of failures as children. It was part of our daily experience. As a baby, how many times did we try to roll over and sit up? Too many to count! We’d get so frustrated, but we kept trying. Then we wanted to get ourselves from one place to the next, so we upped our game to crawling and scooting. We still wanted to go faster so we mimicked the other big humans and attempted to walk. How many times do you think we fell down before we finally got the hang of it? And even when we walked, we’d still wobble… until one day we didn’t.
We kept on trying until we succeeded because we didn’t make it mean anything about who we were. I can’t remember being a baby, but as I watch other babies fail, I notice they don’t cry because they are ashamed. I don’t even think they understand what failure is. If they cry, it’s because they are frustrated or physically hurt.
If babies aren’t taking their failures to heart, then why does it hold so many of us grownups, hostage?
As we evolved from tiny town to grown-up city, our thoughts, and experiences continually shaped our brain into what it is today. If you had a lot of well-intentioned, but poorly communicated opinions about your failures growing up, it would make sense that the energy around it would be negative. It could’ve been from someone you admired or who was in a role of authority to you.
As a parent myself, I have bundles of good intentions. I’d rather not watch my children feel painful emotions and I want them to have endless opportunities as they grow into adults. It sounds as rational as a mama bear protecting her cubs. However, wanting to shield our children from negative emotions means we lose an opportunity to teach them how to manage their emotions and come out the other side stronger.
When you were growing up, was the phrase, “bad boy” or “bad girl” ever thrown your way? If you hit your sibling or said something inappropriate, were you told to stop being a bad child? Versus, hitting your sister is a bad choice. Poor communication can be as small as a few words presented differently to make a lasting impact on how we see ourselves. If I grow up thinking I’m a bad person then when I fail, I’m finding more proof to back up the thought that I’m not enough and it grows into a vicious unproductive thought pattern.
Parents are well-intentioned wanting their children to get good grades in school.
My friends and I were always encouraged to get A’s in school. Maybe you can relate. A’s were celebrated in my family with a fun night out at the end of each term. My friend’s parents paid them for their grades and the higher the grade, the more money they earned. In fact, every time I did something good, I was given a thumbs up, you’re awesome kind of response. My mom was great at validating me! It was also expected that we didn’t get “bad” grades and if we did, a negative consequence would be waiting. If you had a similar experience growing up, it makes sense why failing would cause such a negative response. A reward is far more desirable than a punishment.
It’s also possible that failing may be hard because we care about what others will think of us. As badly as we want to be unique individuals, we are still a tribal species. In fact, it’s possible that wanting to be unique means we’ve adopted the latest cultural trend of individualism. This isn’t a bad thing, but because we have a desire to fit in when we fail, it’s possible the first thing to go through our head is, “What will everyone think?” We are immediately afraid of being judged. We worry, what if they think I don’t know what I’m talking about or that I’m not smart enough or capable enough? We go through all kinds of scenarios in our heads of how we aren’t measuring up to other people’s expectations.
Feeling like we’re not enough, feeling disappointed in ourselves and others, and fearing what others will think are very common responses to failure.
Sometimes understanding why we feel the way we do, helps us realize we are human and allows us to move forward. However, sometimes we use this information as a crutch to blame others for why we can’t move forward. Be careful not to get stuck in the shame-blame trap. It doesn’t matter how you got where you are, it’s in the past. You can’t change it, so leave it there. It’s okay to notice it and learn from it, but don’t let it hold you hostage. What matters is what you want for your future. You are the only one who can control your future and that’s what I’m here to help you achieve.
To cultivate lasting progress, understand that failing is part of the human experience. Define what failing means to you. Is it a positive or negative event? If you’ve only seen it as negative, how can you change your perspective? What if you made it a goal to fail? Did you know that failure and success live together in the same neighborhood? Failure is just steps away from success. When you’ve tried something and it didn’t work, don’t trash it, tweak it. Each adjustment is another step in walking to your neighbor’s house, success. Can you collect fails as badges of commitment to your dreams? If you have an outrageous goal, the amount of times you’ll fail will be higher than if it was easy and within reach. Each fail is one badge closer to a refined, brilliant outcome, and when you get there count how many badges you’ve earned.
To cultivate lasting progress, ask yourself what you’re making this failure mean about you?
If it’s that you’re not enough and you’ll never measure up, you couldn’t be more wrong. You are already enough. Because you were created from a higher power, you were enough when you were born and you’ll be the same brilliant enough when you die; your worth as a human can never change. When you realize you’re already enough, failing is just part of the experience in discovering your true potential. Knowing how priceless you are as a human means your potential isn’t limited. If you fail, not a big deal. It was a great try! Now let’s tweak it and try again.
If you think you’ll never measure up, what are you measuring yourself against? We each have our own road to experience in this life. As soon as you start comparing yourself to someone else, you’ll never feel like you’re enough. Comparing never feels good and it will steal your sense of self-worth. When you catch yourself comparing, and we all will, you have two options. Choose to entertain the toxic thoughts your brain is offering or opt out of that conversation and spend time on moving towards your goal.
It’s common to shy away from the possibility of failure. It’s common to feel negative about failure, but it is normal for anyone who has achieved an outrageous goal to see failure as another step toward living their dream. Anyone who’s had a biography written about them developed an intimate relationship with failure over and over again. We all fail, but the difference between the ones who are living their dream versus those stuck dreaming about it is they didn’t quit.
I wish you all the best in conquering your goals this year. And remember, the bigger you fail, the bigger your outcome!
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