Goals – Part 3: Why failing is ok

In my first post around goals I mentioned that when I think of goals to achieve, they always need to be massive. Therefore, setting goals tends to scare me. Somehow, if they aren’t big, they don’t count. I find it super hard to be proud of achieving little things (and I consider a lot of things to be little things, even if they might be pretty cool achievements). I am quite result oriented, I like to overachieve, and I like to get sh*t done. So why do I worry about setting goals so much then?

Because I don’t like to fail. I’m incredibly worried about failing.

Now that might be interesting to focus on a bit more. I’ve had my fair share of fails and even though I might have been devastated about it at the time, it usually turned out fine later down the line. If anything: failing has taught me to be more resilient. Then why is it still so ingrained in me to try and prevent failure at all times?

Because the feeling of failure sucks. I think a lot of you can agree with me on that.

When I promised my music teacher I’d play a piece at “keyboard recital evening” (please don’t judge) and didn’t practice enough so I had to ask if I could play a different piece instead halfway through it in front of 50 parents…it was embarrassing. When I flunked my last year of high school, I was in pieces and I still don’t like talking about it. When I failed my driving test, I was gutted. When I had to do my statistics exams over and over, I dreaded it. When I wasn’t allowed to proceed with my initial Master thesis, I was massively thrown. I still don’t like talking about that either. When I was rejected for traineeships and later, other jobs I set my heart on I wailed and sulked passionately. The list of my failings is longer than I care to share.

What really matters I guess, is that I got up and tried again. I did graduate, did get my driving license, I got my Master’s degree and ended up on a career path I’m really happy with.

Not failing because you never try would be something to worry about. Not learning from your failings would be something to worry about. But failing on its own is just an opportunity to learn, get up, try again and do better. 

I think it’s important to consider the implications of failing. What happens if you fail? Is it really that bad if you have to get up and try again? It might set you back a bit in time, but failing really very rarely is something you can’t overcome at a later moment in time.

How many people will remember your failure other than yourself? Often, it’s mainly you who will keep judging yourself on something you failed at a long time ago. And even if you do have people in your life who like to remind you of when you failed: It’s not really about them. It’s about you: your goals, your aspirations. Its about you trying until you succeed.

Interestingly enough, and a lot has been written and said about this, when we look at successful people, we don’t perceive them to be people who ever fail. Even though it’s probably the failing, the getting back up, not giving up, that got them to be as successful as they are. Their success came from resilience and persistence.

So I’m going to try and care a little less about failing and about what other people think, and a bit more about persisting and finding alternatives if at first I don’t succeed.

How do you feel about failing? How do you deal with failure? What has failing brought and taught you?

Thought this video was pretty good:

This video might be a bit corny, but it’s a good reminder to put things into perspective.

Reads that are on my to do list (I dislike failing so much, I couldn’t even get myself to read these books yet…but I will!):

How to fail – Elizabeth Day

Failing Forward – John C. Maxwell

Fail fast, fail often – Ryan Babineaux