By Amy O’Connor
Fail! Go fail! You must fail to win! Failure is the new winning!
Okay, I get the message. Put yourself out there. If you are not stretching yourself or taking risks then you may never fail but you will certainly never achieve your fullest potential.
I can support this message with one caveat. When did failure become the new winning? I don’t know about you, but I think winning is the new winning.
See, I don’t have a problem with failure if you’ve done everything possible to avoid it and it still happens. I have a problem when people use failure incorrectly as a motivator.
Follow me on this, we usually only discuss the merits of failure (what’s we’ve learned from it) after it’s already happened. “Oh, you failed? Good for you! What did you learn? Do better next time.” This, in my opinion, is a weaker form of using failure as a motivator.
Failure is much stronger if we use it on the front end of goal setting.
I recently ran a few of my classes through a goal setting exercise where we discussed failure as a part of goal setting. Or rather, we discussed what failure would feel look/look like BEFORE they set out to achieve their goals, not AFTER they didn’t achieve them.
I asked people to:
Step 1: Identify three goals they had for themselves for the year. Could be personal or professional, but they must be specific and measurable (i.e. how will you know if you won or lost).
Step 2: Identify their “whys”. Simon Sinek talks about the power of ‘why’ and how a strong ‘why’ will lead to strong actions.
I told my groups that if their ‘whys’ weren’t strong or emotional for them, then I questioned whether or not their goals were really that important. If it’s not important, then you almost certainly won’t achieve it.
Step 3: Identify your consistent actions that will lead to goal achievement and what will you do first. You can’t just do nothing and get where you want to go. You have to outline the build blocks that will lead to success.
Step 4: (This is where failure comes in as a powerful precursor to success in goal achievement) I asked them “What does failure look like? What does failure feel like? Write it out. What are the emotion words you would use to describe your failure?”
Step four stunned people. For most, they had never considered the power of projecting their own failure much less trying it on for size to see how it would feel.
Some found that failure didn’t feel that bad and decided their goal was set too low, and they marked it off their list. Others cried at the thought of failure.
I explained that harnessing and revisiting what failure would feel like if they didn’t succeed in their goal would give them power when their resolve started to wane.
Goal achieve is hard and its often boring and unappealing. The consistent behaviors get old and even your ‘why’ may start to seem weak. You will most certainly find yourself wanting to bail at some point. That’s when you remember how your failure will feel.
Failure is a powerful motivator, and it’s greatest power in goal achievement is found when used before we start to take action, not after.