We all (hopefully) have goals. These goals have a variety of purposes, timelines, and success criteria. We will, invariably, fail at some number of our goals. It’s perfectly fine for this to happen. I started this year with the goal of writing at least one judge review at every multi-judge event I worked this year. As you can guess, I have failed at that goal.
Let’s explore the process of failing to achieve goals you’ve set, as well as how to reset and re-establish goals to ensure future success. We’ll use my own failed goal as an example.
This whole loop starts because you set a goal, likely because you want to do something better. There’s a lot of people that have spoken a lot better than I can about how to establish goals. The important part is that you’ve established (and failed) at something.
If you look back at my goal, nowhere does it give me a timeline, or condition for failure; however, I still say that I’ve failed to achieve my goal. This step is one of the most important aspects of improving. At some point, even if you have nebulously defined success and failure metrics, you can take a good hard look at your goal and say, “I have failed to meet this goal.”
Being honest about ourselves, particularly in negative ways, can be very difficult. It takes maturity to admit that you’ve failed at achieving something. However, in order to move forward, you’re going to have to recognize that not everything is going according to plan. By taking an ostrich approach, you’re really robbing only yourself from succeeding at your own goal. Other people probably aren’t as interested in your success as you are.
Having defined failure conditions for your goals is a way to identify success, but rarely are we that forward looking. We don’t want to go into the goal with an idea of how we can fail (lest it become a self-fulfilling prophecy). This can leave you in goal-achievement limbo, wondering “have I really failed?” Chances are, if you’re asking yourself that question, the answer is yes, and that’s OK.
Once we recognize that we’ve failed at a goal, the process for improvement can begin.
Why did you fail?
Just like analyzing why you lost a game, analyzing why you failed to achieve your goal is the most important part of improving yourself. We can call these things that prevent or delay our success impediments. Finding these impediments, and adjusting your goals to work around these reasons are the key to success looking forward.
I can find a lot of reasons why I have failed my goal this year. Work is too busy; I didn’t get enough for good feedback; etc. But many of those are just excuses meant to justify my failure. When I drill down and look internally, I find that the reason I failed was something I already knew about myself: I do terribly without deadlines to adhere to. I was on a path to failure from the very second I started my goal, because I didn’t account for my own weaknesses.
Sometimes (like in my situation), your impediments are going to be things you control. Other times, they’re things you can’t control, but you need to adjust for (like say, work schedules). However, in order to move on, you need to identify those impediments, as they’ll tell you why you failed.
Re-Setting for the Future
Once you’ve identified your impediments, you can put into action a way to account for that moving forward. You need to ask yourself “What can I do to prevent this same impediment from causing me to fail again?” For me, this means putting a deadline on myself. My goal moving forward might be “Write at least one review of at least one judge at every multi-judge event I worked this year and submitting it within a month of the event.” This may seem like a more difficult to achieve goal, and on a pure reading it is, but it’ll work better because of how poorly I do without deadlines. Sometimes we need to make our goals a little bit harder in order to meet our own needs. An accountabilibuddy can also help.
The new goal begins this loop again. Maybe you’ll succeed, and maybe you’ll fail. Don’t fail for the same reason(s), and you’re doing well. If you’ve failed for the same reason, you probably didn’t have a good enough mitigation strategy in place to deal with the impediment.
That’s ok, too. Learn from the mistake, and move forward with a new, stronger goal.