Happy third week of January! Do you know what’s significant about three weeks? It means we have had all this time to work on our New Year’s goals!
Can I get a raise of hands of those who followed through? Great job! Pat yourself on the back for your superstar discipline. We’d love to hear your tips! Comment below.
Now, raise your hand if you went all out towards your goal for a few days, but then life got in the way and your momentum petered out. Great attempt! I say keep going. You made it this far. Any tiny step forward is that much closer to achieving your goal. Baby steps.
How many of you, come January 2, completely forgot you even set a goal?
No matter where you fall into these categories (or anywhere in between), this blog is for you. Because no matter who you are, sometime in life you will fail. And when you fail, you need the skills to pick yourself up, dust off your toockus, and try again.
After all, failure is part of growth, right?
Go back and read that again. Let it sink in.
Failure is part of growth.
Be honest. Did you have a visceral reaction to reading those five innocent words?
For me, I know failure is part of growth. Seriously, I can’t count how many times I’ve told my kids they must fail in order to grow and to learn. Especially the perfectionist one. My one-sided conversation with this child usually sounds something like this: “You can’t be perfect the first time you try something. If you knew how to do that math problem the first time you would be in a different class. Give yourself some grace.”
I think we all understand the symbiotic relationship between failure and learning on a conceptual level. But I know, at least for myself, when I fail at something that matters deeply to me, I run screaming from the shame of it like a medieval farmer fleeing from an attacking dragon.
This fleeing can be translated into countless forms—procrastination, avoidance, excuses. Does this one sound familiar? “I’m not smart enough” (talented enough, strong enough, brave enough, insert-your-own enough). We all have our own personal brand of avoiding failure. Maybe we should all join a support group and swap techniques. I could tell you all about comfort zones and how important they are to my strategy to avoid risk of any kind.
All joking aside, recognizing our failure avoidance techniques is essential in persevering towards growth, even when we feel dragon fire breathing down our necks. Unfortunately, knowing the form they take isn’t enough. We must also identify the underlying why behind our continual (and cyclical) avoidance techniques. Being aware of what we do and why we do it is essential to overcoming failure avoidance, so we don’t find ourselves back in the torture chamber of stagnation. And, who wants that?
What Do the CCC Therapist Have to Say?
I asked the Chico Creek Counseling therapists for common reasons we avoid failure, and helpful ways to overcome them. Here’s what they had to say:
I find people often fear success more than they fear failure. If they succeed, the world puts higher expectations on them, which feels daunting. They create a fantasy around their idea of success, become overwhelmed by all the “what ifs” they imagine, and then subconsciously sabotage themselves.
As a clinician, I teach my clients to break down fear of success into parts and enforce healthy boundaries. For example, finally obtaining a CPA credential doesn’t mean the client will be stuck doing everyone’s taxes for free. Finally finishing a 10k doesn’t mean she has to keep jogging for the rest of her life. Learning healthy boundaries and planning good responses for the “what if” situations gives a person the confidence to move forward. Knowing that fulfilling the goal doesn’t equal a lifelong commitment helps the client stay motivated during difficult periods, and ultimately enables the goal to become a healthy, lifelong habit.
I sometimes find when clients talk about fear of failure preventing them from achieving goals, their family responsibilities are the underlying cause. A parent might want a new career or to go back to school, but they need to consider how “failure” might impact finances or may reduce family time. I frequently hear: “What if I have to miss school for my family and then I can’t pass a class?” It is a struggle to want to grow or change while maintaining family responsibilities. These are legitimate concerns. And, I support clients to take one step at a time, reminding them that change is a process and only they know the right pace.
As for me, I’ve found self-forgiveness helps me move out of the hole I tunneled into when failure’s dragon fire got too hot. In other words, I let go. I let go of my expectations, let go of the shame, let go of blame, and beating myself up with “should haves”.
With the promise of a newer and better year to come, we tend to place so much emphasis on adding things to our already full lives—workout routines, healthier foods, romantic relationships, and other “goals” So much so, we oftentimes overlook the necessity of releasing old patterns and behaviors that have been blocking us all along. Setting new goals without letting go of the old stuff is like buying a whole new wardrobe without cleaning out your closet first. There’s just no space to put things! Releasement is absolutely necessary if we are to create the space for the new goal to take root and become a part of us.
By releasing old hurts, resentments, or negative thought patterns, we free up mental space for new goals and possibilities.
Try This Practical Tip to Overcome Failure:
Brandi doesn’t just drop this truth bomb and leave us wondering how to release old patterns and behaviors. She outlines a releasement ceremony that both honors our old self and is proactive:
Releasement ceremonies and rituals have been practiced for centuries by many indigenous traditions and belief systems. There are many ways you can create your own version of a releasement ceremony.
The following is an example of one of her favorite releasement ceremonies.
Fire Releasement Ceremony
What you’ll need:
- Writing Utensil
- Fire Safe Container
- Write down what you want to release or let go of on paper (try to be as specific and detailed as possible. The more you express your internal thought patterns, emotions, and outdated beliefs the better).
- Using a fireplace, beach fire pit, or any other fire safe container, place your completed paper(s) into the fire and let them go.
- Mindfully observe as your writings transmute and release into smoke and ash.
(If fire safety is an issue or for younger participants, try these variations. Use paper shredder. Tear it into small pieces and placing in a sealed, airtight container. Write them with a marker and place in water.)
Now that we understand why we avoid failure, identified our avoidance techniques, and learned a few ways to start breaking these habits, what are we waiting for? Let’s identify those behaviors and thoughts that no longer serve us, and release them. Let’s create more space and time in our lives to work on our goals. And let’s be kind to ourselves, as we would be to a small child learning to walk, as we learn and grow and flourish.
We here at Chico Creek Counseling would love to hear your process. In the comments, tell us your most prominent failure avoidance technique and the first step you plan to take to overcome it. We are cheering you on!
Meet Rachelle DeNecochea, Chico Creek Counseling’s new blogger. Rachelle worked as office manager for Chico Creek Counseling, but now spends most of her time writing fantasy novels for teens and blogging about bravery, risk-taking, and living fully. She has an undergraduate degree in behavioral science and a master’s degree in business. She lives in Chico, CA with her superhero husband and two almost grown minions. If you’d like to connect, follow her personal blog or send a message through her Acts of Bravery Facebook page. She’d love to chat with you.