None of us are strangers to goal-setting.
We set career goals. Self-development goals. Goals that keep us in line with the dreams and accomplishments we want to see happen for ourselves.
And there’s certainly nothing wrong with doing any of the above. Goals keep us in line with where we want to go in life.
But there’s one crucial area we neglect when it comes to goal-setting: We don’t set goals for failure.
Nobody sits down on a Monday morning and decides to fail three times that week. Nobody spends their Friday evening toasting their failures with colleagues at happy hour. We see failure as something that we ought to push down and shy from acknowledging – shameful secrets we keep with ourselves.
And I’d like to suggest that we start challenging that narrative.
Nobody wants to experience disappointment. It’s a crippling, gut-wrenching affair. But perhaps we experience it as such predominantly because we’ve learned to attach our self-worth to the experience of winning.
We tell ourselves we’re worthy insofar as we’re succeeding. We’re valuable only when we’re triumphing. Our self-worth and our confidence level are derived from the number of times we’ve seen our risks work out.
But what if we started basing that self-worth on our commitment to striving for what’s important, rather than our ability to concretely achieve it?
What if we started looking at failure itself as a win?
What if, instead of measuring the chances that worked out, we measured our successes by the number of chances we opted to take?
By the number of times we put ourselves out there, the number of goals that we gunned for, the number of attempts we made to learn or take a chance on something new – even if it didn’t work out.
In the words of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam,
FAIL means ‘First Attempt In Learning.’
And that’s the core truth about failure – it isn’t always a dead end or a stopping place. Often, it’s just the first attempt towards achieving a greater goal.
Failing professionally is the first step toward understanding your challenges and becoming aware of your growth trajectory.
Failing romantically is the first step toward understanding which types of people you don’t fit with and who you ought to look for moving forward.
Failing at a personal development goal highlights your natural temptations and inclinations, which you can take care to be aware of moving forward.
At the end of the day, refusing to fail is one of the most limiting choices we can possibly make.
Refusing to fail means refusing to learn what where your growth opportunities lie. It means refusing to approach your life with a more holistic sense of awareness. It means refusing to learn, develop and expand in ways that are uncomfortable but incredibly beneficial in the long run.
It means sacrificing the person you could become, in order to salvage the petty pride of the person you are.
But what if we could find pride within failure itself?
What if we chose to pride ourselves on being the kind of people who aren’t afraid to put themselves out there and go for what matters?
What if we could be proud of ourselves for being willing to attempt those learning opportunities time and time again? What if our strength was born from our relentless sense of resilience, rather than our ability to hold out for the perfect circumstance?
What if we were able to refine our goals to not only let them accommodate failure, but to actively encourage it?
What if we made an active, deliberate point to fail at least once every week?
To go out on a limb and try one new thing.
To take one scary risk that we are not quite ready to take.
To gun for something that is going to grow us, even if it may not work out.
What if we began not just accepting our failures but actively, purposefully celebrating them?
How might our lives begin to transform as a result of taking so many risks? How might we evolve through taking them?
How might a string of failures – lined up back to back to back – look over the course of a lifetime?
Because it may just look like an upwards trajectory.
Like a series of missteps that built on themselves until we unexpectedly found ourselves exactly where we were meaning to go all along.
All because we were able to put our prides aside and learn to fail as successfully as possible.