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  • Writer's pictureLinda Buchanan

From Change Your Story ~ Change Your Life: Plan to Fail

Updated: Dec 30, 2020

An Atypical New Year's Resolution ~ Plan to Fail and Don't Focus on the Goal

Four Reasons that New Year's Resolutions Fail

1) Quitting at Setbacks

Surprised by the idea that you should plan to fail? So was I when I first began to read a post on Medium by Danny Forest. He talks about how he made his goal for 2018 to be to fail as often as he could. This meant that he was going to branch out into new areas in life and try things he had been avoiding  - knowing that it would naturally be awkward and bring failure at times. He says that it’s one of the first resolutions he’s ever kept and that he is a new person because of it.

As I continued to read his post, it made a lot of sense. It really doesn’t work to attempt anything without the risk of failure. It’s safe and comfortable but it happens much too slowly, if at all. Also, as we know from neuroscience, our brain is wired to learn more efficiently through negative than positive experiences (better to know where the bears live than where the daffodils grow).

Consider the wise words from these accomplished people:

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” - Albert Einstein  “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” - C.S. Lewis “If you’re not failing every now and then, it’s a sign that you’re not doing anything very innovative” Woody Allen “When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.” - Eloise Ristad “When you take risks, you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.” - Ellen Degeneres “Failure is simply an opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” -Henry Ford

Okay, I’m sure you get the point. This idea is nothing new. Yet, although there are hundreds of quotes like these from all times and walks of life, we still let the fear of failure control us! So what would you do differently right now if your overall goal was to increase the incidents of failure over the year?

2) Clinging to Outcome

Instead of focusing primarily on the goal, you must focus on the process. I know, you've heard that before too, but most people still make this mistake. It's great to have a rough idea of what your goal is but if that's your primary focus, you may never get there. For instance, if your goal is to make 30,000 more this year than last and you only make 20,000 more, is this a failure or a success? Instead of measuring success by the ultimate outcome, focus on small changes that you make each day. Each day stands alone whenever you are attempting new things.

Try getting up in the morning and visualizing the kind of day that you want. If you have enough of those days, you are likely to have new outcomes naturally.

3) Making Unrealistic Goals

Some goals are too big of a leap and may be even quite unkind. There is no reason to feel like you need to recreate yourself. You must not only focus on what you want to have different, but the things that you are doing right as well. You will need to identify your strengths to utilize these in any goals you achieve.

4) Using Criticism to Motivate

Finally, the forth common mistake is related to the one above. I've written before about the three Cs of Change: Courage, Curiosity and Compassion. Without these, nothing changes. The biggest mistake people make when trying to work toward a goal is using criticism or guilt as motivation. This is a definite set up for failure. It takes courage to change anything, regardless of how obvious the need to change might seem. Sometimes it is as important to explore what makes change hard to achieve for you as opposed to just blindly trying to push yourself toward change.

It's also important to be curious with yourself along the way. If you have a day that doesn't go well, be curious about that to consider what got in the way. Be compassionate so that you can fully explore the difficulties in change. These characteristics are much more likely to result in change than shame or criticism. Just like a friend is more likely to open up to you if you're being curious and compassionate, you are likely to be more open and honest with youself in the same way. Therefore, if you hear yourself using a harsh tone, simply shift to the way you would talk to a friend.

You may have a narrative that makes it hard to change and reach your goals. I've written a workbook to help you identify problematic narratives and rewrite them. Check it out here

I would love to hear from you. Please scroll down to the bottom of this page (past the banner of recent posts) to leave a comment.

Blessings for peace, health and days which you live according to your own values. Linda


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