For years I didn’t strive to succeed, but rather was avoiding failure.
To be fair, this isn’t something that is always black and white, but rather another grey area where things move along on a continuum. This isn’t necessarily a BAD thing. In some cases, it provides essential learning experiences when we persevere in the face of insurmountable odds. In other cases, it’s fine to avoid public embarrassment when it is clear at we are not prepared to perform a specific task. In different situations, different reactions are appropriate.
However, when this continuum is chronically skewed in one way or another, problems arise. The balance is disrupted…
For me, this was skewed towards failure avoidance.
Interestingly I’m not sure where this arose from, and the confusion is not for lack of introspection, I simply can’t target ONE reason for this. An entire post would be required to really get into the essence of my brain, but I know this: somewhere along the line I developed an Ego Goal Orientation. In English, this means that I didn’t gauge my performance against myself, but rather I only cared about being better than those around me.
This can set up failure avoidance behaviors such as: low-balling goals, avoiding challenging goals, eschewing competition, and self-handicapping.
And this is exactly was I did…errr…DO. As early as last week, my coach and I had a conversation that can be boiled down as such: “Why are you paying me to program your exercise and diet if you have no goal on the horizon. Stop being ridiculous…it’s time to compete again.”
34 years on this planet, and it still rears its head.
So how did I fix this?
Well, technically, I haven’t. This type of thing is an uphill battle and requires ton of active effort. Here are a few things I do.
1. Recognize it – I’m completely honest in self-assessment and have learned to humbly accept constructive criticism. This is so important. We all need to acknowledge out shortcomings or we will never be able to take appropriate steps.
2. Address orientation – Ego Goal Orientation can be a killer. I am always asking myself if I am Task Goal Oriented. Outcomes and performance are important, and we all like to win, but having goals at don’t allow us control can cause all sorts of problems….therefore we need:
3. Process based goals – I talk about this incessantly with clients. Having an outcome goal is cool, and often a catalyst, but we need to embrace the PROCESS, as well. For example, having a goal to lose 30 pounds is fine, but there are a ton of uncontrollable variables that can cause frustration. By setting a process goal such as: “Eat vegetables 5 times a day” we create a task based goal that can be controlled and troubleshot. As well, consistently hitting this goal allows us to daisy-chain small, daily victories, which is highly beneficial for intrinsic motivation.
So, yes, I do have a tendency to avoid failure, but have set up controls in my life to ensure that I do not let this drag me down or hold me back. What about you? Do you find yourself avoiding failure and holding yourself back from happiness? If so, what are you doing about it.
Learn to embrace the PROCESS and remove some of the emphasis on the outcome. You’ll learn to enjoy the journey more and welcome “failure” as a tool towards improvement.