Another common question, we encounter is:
This worry is also not related to a system but rather, aimed squarely at the goal. So, first, let’s be pragmatic and accept that this is totally possible.
It’s okay, it really is. All of us, including me, want you to succeed. However, it is good to not get so attached to the goal but more to the intention and process of change. Personal growth comes from the journey, at least as much as from the destination.
To put it simply, there are few things you can do when things don’t work out.
- Drop it
- Re-think or reframe it
- Press on
- Double down on it
- Ask for help
Let’s take a look at these options a bit more..
Drop your goal
Yup, it’s not about the goal, it’s about you. If you’re finding out that the goal doesn’t fit your intention or it’s not the right time to unleash it, then feel free to drop it.
What is important here is to do a “blameless post mortem” of your goal to learn why and what you should be aware of when you set a subsequent goal. Blameless post mortem’s are great. The central theme is to find out what, not who, caused the failure and oddly you can get to it using a technique called “5 Whys”. Yup, basically, you ask the question, “Why did that happen?” And the answer shouldn’t place the blame on a person, in this case, you.
Perhaps you were not your most objective self when setting this goal. Happens to many of us all the time, think New Year’s resolutions. Emotion driven and/or rushed resolutions that we’re all to familiar with are quite common. Don’t be hard on yourself but before you drop the goal entirely, take a look at the other options.
Re-think and reframe your goal
We are generally not great at estimating effort over something longer than a few days. As a result, your goal may need an adjustment. We also tend to over commit at the beginning and tire out pretty quickly if our anticipation overcomes our expectation. But here’s the great thing – you tried! And now you know more.
So what can you do? First, ensure you’re in the cool, calculated and pragmatic state and examine your goal. It’s totally fine to go back to the drawing board and write a new or updated worthy goal or choose a different system. All you need to is ask is…
And now, let’s apply a simple trick. This one comes from my (virtual) running coach and follows from the point above. His observation with the athletes he trains is that the anxiety of achieving the ultimate goal at the end generally holds them back. So, he has a couple of things he brings up on almost every run
Start easy and celebrate more
Try breaking up our goals into smaller milestones, can give us quick wins to celebrate. But we can go even further. For example: celebrate whenever we start even though you didn’t feel like when we woke up, celebrate shaking the initial cobwebs, celebrate that we came back a better person every time we tried. These are not easy to just turn on but practice celebrating more, please!
He is on to something more profound and that is that if we perceive the short term result of working on our goal as negative, it’s much harder to keep at it even if the ultimate outcome is highly desirable.
Press On – Keep at it a bit more
B.F. Skinner, a behavioral psychologist, ran an interesting experiment. He took a group of test subjects and divided them into 2 groups – one that received a reward for an action when it was done a fixed number of times and the other that received a reward for the same action but a random number of times. Now, our intuition tells us that the first group should be more motivated because they know exactly when to expect the reward but he found that when the rewards were turned off, the second group actually kept working on the action longer. There is a link here to loss aversion.
The lesson that follows is to flip the expectation on its head. Instead of being anxious about a fixed outcome at the end, being excited to go on the journey every day not knowing what to expect! Then come back and assess how you’re doing and what changes you need to make.
There is a very well known bias we can use to our advantage here. Great coaches, sales people and negotiators use it all the time to trick us into committing. That is the simple act of owning or feel like you own something makes you feel that good things will come if you wait for it
Here’s an example: During the housing crisis in 2008, a study from Zillow (a popular house hunting site) showed that around 90% of home owners said that there had been foreclosures in their neighborhood and around 80% said that they didn’t think that the real estate market would improve, yet around 60% believed that the value of their homes had not decreased and around the same planned to invest in home improvements. That’s the power of ownership that despite the gloom of uncertainty, people believed in what they owned.
Ask for help
Here’s something you don’t hear often because we’re constantly told to go it alone. But we’re social animals and one way or another influenced by the people around us, more so, by the ones that are closest. So, the lesson here is simple.
You’ll be surprised how powerful that simple act of asking for help is giving you additional capacity to go out and achieve your goal.
What doesn’t kill you…
… only makes you stronger. You already know this one. Growth happens when we’re stretched and what better way to stretch ourselves other than our own goals.
What was most helpful for you in this post? Let me know in the comments. Feel free to share these posts with folks that you coach and help. Let’s pay it forward and encourage every one to achieve their goals. Take care!