Failures and goal-setting

I expect you to read about failure during the holiday season? Yes, I do. Sorry-not-sorry for that, but the timing on goal-setting is perfect, and failure provides an ideal framework. Here’s my one disclaimer: I’m not a failure-focused person. I’m a success-focused person who is candid about the times things haven’t worked out (and is okay with the majority of those). Most importantly, I recognize that “failures” can be defined in many ways, and that a constructive approach to those times and events involves learning from them.

Taking risks, hopefully in an environment in which they are “safe”, provides us with opportunities for improvement in both the professional and personal aspects of our lives. If we don’t try new things…well, we will simply keep getting what we’ve had before. I’m not advising recklessness. What I am encouraging is curiosity. What if you looked at something you are afraid to do (handle snakes!) and redefined it by articulating what you fear will happen if you do it (no actual fear unless they’re poisonous, I just think snakes are icky). Tim Ferriss provides a fabulous Ted Talk on his process to manage fear, which provides many ways to understand that most of our fears are completely irrational. What IS the worst thing that can actually happen?

I’m not going to go quite as far as he does to say that you should define your fears instead of your goals- we still need goals. I do agree that naming those things we fear is critical to conquering them. We still need goals, we just need to articulate them differently than we often do. I recently learned about the concept of approach goals (things we work towards) and avoidance goals (things we work to avoid). Boom! There’s the tie in- avoidance goals are often based upon things we fear. The important thing about avoidance goals (“I don’t want to crash on my next ski run”; “I can’t handle it if this manuscript to get raked over by reviewer #2 AGAIN”) is that they’re not healthy for us. Constantly scanning the horizon for bad things creates a vicious cycle that results in diminished well-being. In contrast, an approach goal (“I am going to ski this next run with strength and confidence”; “I have made some thoughtful revisions and am ready to resubmit this manuscript”) sets up a pattern of scanning the horizon for the good things.

What if we practiced self-compassion and helped ourselves to “belong” in the same ways that we include others?

My approach goal for the blog? I’m going to keep finding items that I find interesting, some medical and some not, to curate and share here on a semi-regular basis. I enjoy it when we all learn together.