At a recent writer’s conference (Jeff Goins’ Tribe conference), I heard a speaker, Joseph Michael, author of the online course Learn Scrivener Fast, say he was thankful for his failures. I’d always known intellectually that failures are good for you. As long as you learn something, failures are learning experiences. They’re a necessary part of moving forward in life.
I’m not talking about moral failures here. We call those sin, and that’s never good for you, although our gracious Father in Heaven often works good out of them when we repent. But that’s a whole other topic. I’m talking here about mistakes. Or maybe it wasn’t even a mistake — stuff we tried that just didn’t work, for whatever reason. The houseplant died. The stock price didn’t rise; it fell. The book didn’t sell.
My New Out-of-the-Box Goal
It wasn’t even Joseph Michael’s main point. He just said it in passing. But when he said he was thankful for his failures, in that moment something leaped the long twelve inches from my head to my heart. I felt the Holy Spirit’s conviction that I need to fail more. I set a goal to fail at 4 major things in 2019.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not setting out to fail. I’m going to try my best. But if my goal is to succeed, I won’t even try unless success is assured from the outset. “Well, c’mon,” my brain says, “with anything important or worthwhile, success is never guaranteed.” But my heart’s not going near that risky goal. The cost of personal failure is too great; it hurts too much. So I sabotage myself and never lean into my calling. Can you relate?
Some people could phrase this goal as trying 4 new/risky things in 2019. Probably most people don’t have to use the f-word, FAIL, in their goal. But I do. God is healing me from severe Performance Orientation, where I get my sense of value from what I do. If I internally said try in my goal, and it didn’t succeed, I’d tell myself the story that I didn’t try hard enough, and the heart-crushing failure would set in.
Avoiding failure avoids risk, which avoids success.
My avoidance of failure keeps me safe from risk, but also from the wild success that is only possible through trying risky things.
But if internally my goal is to fail, then my heart feels free to take that risk, because I know I can meet that goal. Just the way my brain, or maybe my heart, is wired. Anybody else, or is it just me?
For some people, setting a goal to fail would mean they’d not do the work, or do it substandard, setting themselves up for failure. Those people are wired differently from me and that’s fine. For me though, I don’t have that problem. If I try something, I’ll do everything I can, the best I can, to achieve success. That’s just who I am.
For me, setting the goal of failing is the permission my heart needs to try something risky. Then if it fails and the self-condemnation loop starts, I can say “hey, I met my goal” and stop it. And if the thing actually succeeds, then, wow, Bonus! I exceeded my goal.
So get ready, 2019, it’s going to be a fun year. I’m going to actually try things I wouldn’t previously even vocalize. How about you? Are you up an adventure? Do you dare give substance to that dream in your heart? What’s the first baby step? Take it.
And who knows? Maybe failing at 4 things in 2019 will be a really hard goal to meet because everything actually works! Wouldn’t that be a great problem to have?