Goal Setting Part 4: FAILURE is inevitable

hate to break it to you, but it is. failure is part of life, like the non-existence of santa. i probably won’t ever have a  6-pack no matter how many sit-ups i do, or how many months i don’t drink.

we’re a week into the new year and already i can bet you rands to onion rings that 99% of the world’s population has already defaulted on 50% of their new year’s resolutions. i myself had to finish the last 3 beers in the fridge before i could start my unwritten ‘no alcohol until 1 may, unless i’m out at a restaurant with friends’ resolution (see that big loop-hole? that goal has failure written all over it.). and my friend can’t start training with me until monday, because, well, that’s the day when she starts new training programs. so, what do you do when you fail?

first, it’s not a failure! remember when i mentioned that you shouldn’t be able to attain 50% of  your well-written SMART goals? in the end it’s not about the goal- it’s about the journey to the goal, the process of defining what you really want, how you’re going to get it, and why it’s important to you. the goal-setting process is really just self-awareness, self-discovery and self-mastery all wrapped up in a clever disguise. so rather than beating yourself up because you didn’t climb kilimanjaro or get a puppy this year (2 goals i wrote down for 2012), take a step back and reassess.

did i go about it in the right way? like my ‘6-pack in 6 months’ goal it was not well-defined and poorly planned. i didn’t clearly articulate what i wanted and i wasn’t able to do what was required to attain it. the take home message: get better at breaking down the goal into easily identifiable, doable tasks. get better at knowing what you’re capable of and what you’re willing to sacrifice. self-awareness, self-discovery, self-mastery.

did i really want this?  i looked at my goals from last year and read the bit about the puppy and wondered: who wrote that? my life has changed so much in the last year, it would have been totally inappropriate to add a puppy to the mix. so the goal has been marked undone (no gold star, sad face) and i don’t feel any sense of failure around it. take home message: things change, in retrospect- not all goals are appropriate, cut your losses, move on. self-awareness, self-discovery, self-mastery.

i only made if half-way. only half-way? awesome! rather than dwell on the half that you didn’t achieve, look at how you got as far as you did. what were your incentives? how did you motivate yourself? what was the difference between what you accomplished and what you didn’t? could you have gone about it in a different, more efficient way? self-awareness, self-discovery, self-mastery.

you know how we always say ‘survival of the fittest’ or ‘whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’? goal setting is a winnowing process that separates what we’d like to have from what we really desire and need. and it gives us the knowledge to identify these things more readily when they arrive in your life unannounced and unwritten. who’d have thought that my 2010 goals to reduce my ‘stuff’ and live a more minimalist lifestyle would only resolve after i was laid off in july of this year. it was ironic to look back and see that written goals like ‘downsize my truck’ and ‘clean out my closets’ happened when i was faced with a much larger, more pressing, unwritten challenge of ‘GET A JOB NOW!’ and ‘FIND A SMALLER PLACE TO LIVE!’

past failures made me more capable and adaptable, and more readily able to recognize opportunities to make necessary sacrifices to do what needs to be done. when i look back on all my years of goal setting, i don’t remember what i didn’t accomplish, i only know i’m where i am today because of what i did. and it’s a good place to be.


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