How to Use Failure to Achieve Your Goals
Recently (and totally surprisingly for me), I was struggling with resistance towards setting goals and clarifying my desires.
But before my goal-setting impotence set in, I had a big goal I’d been working towards for years that I just haven’t accomplished.
Realizing just how long it’s been and how far I still was sent me into a bit of a tailspin.
I started to question whether I was really capable of it. I looked at some of the people I know who have achieved similar goals, and I wondered, “do they have something that I don’t have?”
Maybe I’m just not lucky or special enough.
Maybe I should just give up.
Was I being foolish by aiming big? Was I wasting my resources and stringing myself along on a fool’s path towards some unattainable shiny object?
Brooke Castillo, one of my favorite life coaches, says that when we set a goal, we will almost inevitably fail. And we will fail over and over in trying to reach it.
But the amazing thing about setting big goals—and the failure we will experience along the way—is that through each failure and attempt to achieve, we transform ourselves into the next, more powerful version of ourselves.
What we learn and pick up on the way through those repeated failures makes us better, stronger, and ultimately more capable of reaching that goal.
And when I looked back at the stories I told myself about my failure, I realized they were the classic limiting belief thought patterns that I help my clients work through.
First of all, my goal was actually pretty fuzzy. I’d never gotten crystal clear on what success would mean—what it would look like, exactly what would change—something I would never let my clients get away with.
And with less of a black-and-white perspective, it’s now easy to see in some ways I have actually achieved this goal. And in some ways, I haven’t yet.
I was left with this vague sense of “not enough “all the time. Because I hadn’t gotten super specific about what success really was.
Second of all, I set a big, out-there goal, but I wasn’t noting and owning progress milestones along the way.
I got stuck in the black-and-white thinking of “there or not there” instead of thinking about all the little steps and many wins I was racking up on the way there.
Third of all, I was totally unrealistic about how much time it would take to accomplish.
This is the dark side to one of my greatest talents—I’m quick to take action, even action that scares me. But big juicy goals take time. It takes time to put the infrastructure in place that will support the achievement of a big goal.
Transformation doesn’t happen overnight. That’s why it’s so important to track your progress milestones and learnings along the way.
As I looked back, I could see that wanting to give up, or telling myself that this goal wasn’t possible (or at least not possible for me), was my inner critic’s way of protecting me. Protecting me from feeling the pain of the gap between me and where I wanted to be. Protecting me from the failures I will inevitably have to go through along the way.
But even though I let the inner critic grab the wheel and try to drive away off into the sunset, it’s my mind and my choice.
I can take the wheel back.
I can choose to be compassionate to myself when I feel the pain of failure.
I can choose to switch my awareness from “not there, not there, not there” to all the little wins and learnings along the way.
Because if I don’t, I lose the chance to fully participate in life while it unfolds. Or to have that exciting, enlivening fire in my belly that comes from aiming big.