Why I’m trying to be better at failing
I was on a flight home after giving a workshop. I have been using my time on planes to work on Balancing Bravely and loving it, but this was at the end of a long day and I was feeling tired, so I decided to listen to a podcast instead. As I scrolled through the app, I came across an episode by Amy Porterfield called “Why I’ve agreed to fail 100 times in 12 months”.
As I listened, I was impressed and convinced. Amy talked about the importance of having “impossible goals” – goals that were so far beyond what you think you could do that you know they are impossible to start with. Therefore, you will have to work your butt off to achieve them, and if you don’t succeed, it isn’t really a failure, because the goal was impossible in the first place.
Get motivated to set big goals: How to create impossible goals to help you achieve your best life
Wow! I love this. This approach really aligns with the way I’ve been thinking about creating the life I want. I’ve been trying to set bigger and bigger goals for myself and honestly, I keep realizing that I’m not setting big enough goals.
One of my big challenges is how to define these huge goals, these impossible goals. Whenever I hear about other people’s impossible goals, they have to do with money – but I’m not driven by money. This phase of my life (quitting my job and starting Balancing Bravely) started because I found out I was paid 47% less than my colleague. I’ve asked myself many times if that means that my values are now more financially-based than ever before. Ultimately, I’ve decided there is a big difference between being driven by money and wanting to valued for the work that you do. All of that to say, that my “impossible goals” are not financial.
So what are my impossible goals?
1) For work: One of my favorite work activities is delivering workshops. I’ve delivered workshops or training to over 1000 professionals in the past 10 years and I love doing it – I love inspiring people (in this case to use research evidence). I love working with them as they have “aha” moments. My goal this year is to deliver 10 workshop. This seems HUGE, because it will require getting a lot of new clients.
2) At home: I want to remove almost all activities that do not bring me joy or are not aligned with my values. Essentially I want to Marie Kondo my life. I am slowly using the Marie Kondo method for my work and my house, but I think I could Marie Kondo my whole life to bring me more joy. Wouldn’t it be amazing to say no to all of those things you don’t want to do? Would it be incredible to have all of your precious free time devoted to things you love and bring you joy?
3) For Balancing Bravely: I want to launch my first course. I absolutely love teaching and as I have been pulling together research and ideas for Balancing Bravely, I can see how it could all fit together in a course. This is hugely ambitious, since I only started Balancing Bravely in December 2018.
Failing is essential for massive success: how to create epic fail goals
Amy then goes on to talk about how the key to achieving these impossible goals is to have “epic fails” – she is planning to do 25 epic fails a quarter! So what is an “epic fail”? An epic fail is when you make a goal that you know you will fail at. She gives the example of wanting to be on the Today Show. Amy thinks there is virtually no chance she will actually get on the show (hence why she will “fail”), but she will put in a good effort to achieve this goal – she will email several times, reach out to people she knows, etc.
This was mind-blowing to me. It totally makes sense that to achieve an impossible goal, you need to push yourself way beyond your comfort zone. You need to try things that you have never tried before. You need to fail.
This is exactly like an expression we have used in our family for years. I come from a pretty hardcore skiing family, taking trips to the mountains in the winter. My mom used to say, “if you don’t fall, you aren’t trying hard enough.” If you stay too far inside your comfort zone, you can’t achieve those big goals. So you need to stretch yourself and try things you wouldn’t normally try – and sometimes that means you are going to fail.
As I sat on the plane, I totally bought in. I opened my notebook and started writing a bunch of ideas for epic fail goals. Then I made a note to write this post. I was pumped and excited.
When perfectionism and self-doubt take over
Then I returned to normal life – working on deliverables, getting new projects, picking up my kids at school, dealing with sick kids… My list of “epic fails” fell further and further behind in my notebook. I kept making a note to write this post and would skip it, move on and write something else.
Why? Why wasn’t I going back to this? Why was I avoiding it?
I was laying in bed having very explicitly not written this post for 2 days in a row when it was my top priority, trying to figure out why. Then it dawned on me – the perfectionist in me doesn’t want to let go. I’m all for setting big goals and pushing myself, but I don’t truly want to fail. I don’t want to be told I’m not good enough. I don’t want to be rejected. If I write it in a post, for the whole world to see I am not able to hide my failures. I’m exposed.
I was originally going to call the post, “Why I want to fail more this year”, but I’ve realized I’m not yet at a place where I want to fail. I know that it’s good to fail more, but I don’t yet want it.
So I’ve decided to tone down my failure ambitions. I’m impressed that Amy can put it out there that she wants to fail 100 times this year, but I’m just not at that level yet. I’m going to start small and focused.
How to start failing small to make big life changes
I figure I need to start by getting more comfortable at failing. Therefore, I want to start by picking topics and activities that seem low-risk and less embarrassing. Yes, oddly embarrassment seems to be driving part of my desire not to fail.
It got me thinking about low-risk activities in which I have been more successful than expected. One of these areas has been guest posts. As part of building Balancing Bravely, I plan to guest post on other blogs that have similar target audiences – working moms. So far, I’ve reached out to 3 people and all 3 of them said yes. At first I thought this was great (and it is), but if 100% of the people I’m emailing are saying yes, then I could probably aim higher.
So I’m going to submit articles to online magazines, the kinds of magazines I read, like Ladders, Well and Good, Bustle. I don’t expect to get accepted, but it would be amazing if I did. It’s a perfect epic fail goal and the risk is low.
Overcoming perfectionism: Creating a new definition of failure to achieve success
Do you also have those perfectionist tendencies? The ones that make you absolutely not want to “fail”. Can you start by taking little steps to push yourself outside of your comfort zone? The key here is to do things and ask for things that you would not normally ask for. There are so many opportunities throughout your day where you probably want to ask for something, but you let the moment pass. What if you spoke up just one of those times? What if you do it by email? Or are you ready to jump right in? Do you want to challenge yourself to 100 epic fails goals for the year?
Inspire other women to try to fail more by writing one epic fail goal in the comments.