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

Goals – Part 2: Passion

There is a lot to be read about finding your passion in combination with goals. Goals can be built around your passion. It’s more likely you’ll achieve them if you’re passionate about the cause.

“Nothing great in the world was accomplished without passion” according to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, a German philosopher from the 18th century.

No pressure.

Coming from a country where the saying “Just act normal: you’ll be silly enough” is a thing; a mentality even, talking or thinking in terms of ‘passion’ is not something that was massively on the forefront of my mind.

When I started working with coaches, I did get asked the question. What is your passion? In more “Dutch” terms, toning the word ‘passion’ down a bit: What gets you excited: What makes you tick?

On the other side of the spectrum, there’s the US. If you read books from American writers and motivational speakers, they’ll be very generous with the word ‘passion’. Influential and motivating Americans love the term: Oprah Winfrey, Tony Robins, Eric Thomas, the late Maya Angelou. It seems to me Americans even use it in cases I wouldn’t exactly call something ‘a passion’ but more ‘a temporary obsession’.

It’s interesting how there is such a difference between these cultures really.  

When I bought some house plants during lock down, I got incredibly obsessed with how to care best for them. Would I call that a passion? Meh. I wouldn’t want to quit my job and become a florist because of it. So, I think I’ve decided not to class it as a passion.  

But, since all these successful people seem to be incredibly passionate about things, I figured I needed to find out what my passion was and embrace it.

For a very long time, I didn’t really know if I had a passion. I mean, I like things, but do I consider them to be my passion? I always enjoyed doing a bit of everything and never liked focussing just on one thing. It also means that I could do a lot of things reasonably well, but usually didn’t get to a point I’d excel forever.

Even if I was considered being “talented” at something, I just didn’t feel like focussing on just that one thing, because there were so many other fun things that had my attention. And if that thing I was considered to be “talented” at became too difficult or too much effort, I’d give up after a while and would focus on something else. Maybe, if I had been more passionate about just one thing, I would’ve been more motivated to keep getting better at it.    

When are you allowed to call something a passion? A passion sounds like such a big thing to have! It makes me think of people who have a passion for swimming and want to become an Olympic medallist. Or singing and want to become the next Lady Gaga. If thinking big like that makes you stop thinking about it at all, I would advise to make it a bit smaller.

This will sound silly, but for a big part, my Instagram account helped me understand what I’m passionate about. I’m not kidding. It’s called @whatevermakesmetick, just like this blog. I gave it that name because that’s exactly what my account ended up reflecting: things that get me excited. When I look at the pictures on my account, they genuinely make me happy.

I love walking, taking pictures, food and travel and reading and writing art, wine, being happy. Would I ever consider becoming a food critic, make a living out of travel, reading or writing, being happy? Would I like to learn more about art and wine? I do get excited thinking about those options. Do I make an effort to be happy? Yes! Would I therefore consider them being a passion? I just might.

I’m also lucky enough to love an awful lot of elements of my job; making sure people enjoy their work, making sure people get handed enough tools to develop themselves, cleaning up messes and improving processes and drive collaboration. Gradually I would like to do more of that: make more people enjoy their work, develop them to higher levels, cleaning up bigger messes and drive collaboration between more and bigger teams.

I think I found my fair share of things that make me tick or could even call my “passion”. Things I can build goals around and things that have kept me focussed on trying to learn more and get better at it for some time now.

How about you? Do you have a passion? Are you doing anything deliberate to find your passion? Or have you had a super clear passion for something since you were a child?

Here’s some more food for thought. I love this talk!

Good reads:

Grit: Angela Duckworth

Mindset: Dr. Carol S. Dweck