4 top tips to manage fails when you're working on goals.
Goals can be a great adventure, but so often we set them up in a punishing way and find them hard to enjoy. The worst part is often embracing the inevitable fails and managing our reluctance to take action in the face of potential failure.
Here we will explore the best way to tackle fear of failure, doubt, confusion, frustration and other showstopping emotions that can block our way to achieiving any goal.
Complete your own Goal Failure Protocol worksheet, to decide ahead of time how you will handle "fails" (with grace) on the way to your goal.
Goal Failure Protocol - download worksheet
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Hi everyone. My name's Dex Randall and this is the Burnout To Leadership Podcast, where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work. Hello my friends, this is Dex and welcome to the podcast. Welcome, to my new listeners, and welcome, to my loyal long term listeners. And a big thank you to all of you, by the way, who've given me an Apple Review. Much appreciated. Or Spotify or wherever you listen. I'm really feeling the love for that today. And also just simply knowing that you're there, willing to give me your precious time and attention this busy whole life we have. I'm glad you're here. And you know, this podcast is intended to be practical. It's really chock full of practical tips for you. Because what I really want is to help you alleviate your stress, your overwork, your anxiety, and all of that and burnout. And also to be more in control, in command of your human experience so that you can basically reduce your experience of burnout and live and lead and work better. And this week what we're gonna do is following up from last time, we're going to talk about handling goal failure. Alright? And if you have a goal, you know you're gonna have some fails, right? So let's debug them a little bit together right now. And by the way, for those of you who have set a goal recently, I do wonder, did it feel like a punish for you before you even begin? 'Cause that's a bit of, a little bit of a tip off really. I talked about feeling negative about goals in episode number 60 on goal setting because setting goals in life can be delightful. It can be empowering and awesome and exciting. Some of us have had the message in life that we should set ourself goals because we've been doing something wrong and we should correct it. Maybe we've been letting ourselves or our potential down, perhaps letting other people down too. We should be asking more of ourselves. We should perform better. We should be a better version of ourselves. You know, this fictitious me 2.0. And when I was saying that, did you hear how many "shoulds" there were in? So if you are sitting there right now thinking that your goal is a should and you're not looking forward to it, go back and listen to episode 60 on goal setting before you listen to this episode. Because really goals are a gift. Pursuing a goal is a thing humans are naturally oriented to do. So bringing forth a goal from capacity and fun is so much more powerful than using one to compensate for our feelings of inadequacy. It's really all about motivation and sustaining the excitement. 'Cause we're really gonna be much more free wheeling, much more creative, have more fun in our goal expression if we are having adventures in what's possible rather than what should've been already. And by the way, just coming back on this for a second, the expression "better version of myself". I really don't like that expression very much because it implies that there's something wrong with us now, which there isn't. And also that we must transcend the stuff we don't like about ourselves, which actually we can't. Rather, what we can do is learn to work more skilfully with the whole of who we already are by accepting every part of ourselves, our strengths and our shadow side, by making friends with all of it. Because taking the stance that we must change to approve of ourselves is self aggression. You're already a perfectly designed human. Nothing is wrong with you. Behaviours are what we can actually change. By making new decisions and changing our habits. Because when you think about it, any behaviour that we ourselves disapprove of in ourselves tends to come not from our personality, which in any case is just a bag of beliefs and the activities that they spawn. But actually it comes from our fear. Negative behaviours that we judge come from our fear. They're fear reactivity, they're fear driven. So... And this is the way I talk a lot, right? Am I giving you some kind of inkling here about how to approach a goal? Because there's only two motivations, right? Love and fear. And it's up to you which you pick. But since our brains already have this natural opposition to doing new stuff, they're gonna oppose any goal at the outset. So I kind of know which one I'd rather tackle my goal from, and it's love. So I would do that because I'd rather make a goal a game I get to play than some sort of rod for my back. And I've done enough years of that. So then assuming you've already made this kind of new beauty, great goal that you love, you've committed to it, you've made a few plans, it comes up on your schedule, you've taken a few of the actions on that goal. Well that's where the fails are likely to start popping up like daisies right on your schedule with your actions alongside. And depending on your relationship with failure, you might complain, you might rejoice or you might just keep going without any reaction at all. Any new goal demands really that you learn to achieve something new, doesn't it? So failure comes with the territory. Nobody ever learned to ride a bike without falling off. So fails, what we've really learned in the past is usually to treat them as unwelcome. We make failed experiments mean that we're not very good at things and we should be. That's unacceptable. That's embarrassing, that's shameful. That's what we kind of learn in school, isn't it? That we have to be good at things. Or be humiliated, maybe ridiculed, maybe told to try harder. Because our educational system for most of us that we've grown up in is competitive. It's almost a combat sport really. But with your new goal there's only you, there aren't 20 of you in a room going for the same goal, probably. So it's not like you have to be the first to get the golden apple off the tree. Your goal is something you'll pursue for yourself in your own time with your own methods. It isn't really competitive and it doesn't need to be thought of as competitive. And by the way, this is all true, even if your goal is something like going for a promotion at work, because you can only bring your own skills, attitude and history into play. You don't start from the same start point as everybody else, right? If it's a promotion for example. And also because it's really about positioning, and poaching is a pretty amazing thing, elevating your winning potential by changing the way you think about and approach the game by changing your positioning, by strengthening that by coming at it from a stronger position than the people you're up against. So really, it's all about... This goal setting process is really about optimising your own efforts, your own bid, regardless of what any of the other humans are getting up to. So my first tip today, number one is no comparison. Don't compare yourself to other people. Comparison is often really unbalanced from our brains, right? It tells us all kinds of stuff, but it usually fails to highlight our own assets, but it does highlight the assets of other people, perceived or otherwise. And so when that happens, it just hurts, and it really doesn't move us forward at all. And besides, you're you and they're them. You will do things differently. Comparison is useless, it's irrelevant, and quite often it's paralysing. So just be you. That's okay, right? It's enough. And likewise, don't tell yourself you can't do it. That's you comparing what you could do in the past with your goal, and because you haven't done it before deciding that it's not gonna work now, you won't be able to do it now. So that comparison is also invalid. The only person you are competing with on your goal is your old self, but you have a hundred percent chance of becoming more knowledgeable on your way to the goal just by taking action. So you will always out pace on this journey to your goal whatever you could do at the start. You're always gonna be more, capable of more at the end. So tip number one, no comparison. Tip number two, keep moving after a failure. There's only two things that can happen when you take action on your goal. Either it works, moving you closer to your goal, or it doesn't. And if it works, you're gonna have a thought about that. And if it doesn't work, you're gonna have a thought about that. In either case, depending on the actual thought that you have and how that makes you feel, you'll go on to take the next right action or you won't. And probably if it works, you'll think a positive thought about how brilliant you are, and you're gonna get a wee dopamine hit and that's gonna create a feeling of inspiration to take the next action. But if it doesn't work, you might think a negative thought that leaves you in doubt, worry, anxiety, frustration, confusion, blame, shame, or any of the other show stopper kinda negative emotions, in which case, you probably won't take the next action. You're quite likely to get stuck, ruminate, maybe have a little rant in your head, maybe feel a bit sorry for yourself or perhaps justify why you failed or walk away. It tends to kinda grind to a halt about then. So the thing to remember is that negative thought you had about your fail is just habitual, and interpreting a single fail as personal failure is optional. Of course, if instead you made a deal with yourself to celebrate failures because you always learn something useful from them, you can now be pleased with the fail. That's your turnaround. So every fail really takes you forward, even if simply by eliminating things that don't work from your goal tasks. So the thought you have on a fail is, well think about it now, what is it for you? What do you want to think about yourself and about your failure? It could be that you're proud that you tried something new, or you stepped out of your comfort zone, or you stuck to your plan to take action. Or you maintained your discipline on a goal. Or even it could be that you remember to make the fail mean something good, right? You choose anything that works for you. Every action either works or it doesn't. The result of every action is the thought and the feeling that you have. The thought and the feeling either inspire the next action or they don't. It's up to you. So tip number two, keep moving after a fail. And tip number three, kind of following on from that, persistently take the next best action. Because to get a result, you must actually take action. So in the first place, you're gonna plan all your actions out and then you will only take actions that take you towards your goal. You put each action on your daily schedule, and then you do precisely what your schedule says, so you take those actions in your schedule. So assuming you've got all that in place, by always taking the next action, it's actually going to be hard to avoid reaching your goal. And don't allow yourself to get away with the fear of taking action, the fear of failure, because failure's just gonna be learning and you'll move to the next action. It's imperative that you absorb a certain amount of failure. It's gonna happen on the way to a goal, unless the goal is something you've already achieved, in which case maybe you're not setting your goal big enough. So I think this is why really you're gonna hear a lot of people say, "Fail fast and fail often," which I agree with very much. Delaying failure, procrastinating because you don't want to feel a negative emotion like fear, can never accelerate your goal. You just can't. And I know, you know, fails can be expensive in terms of time, cost, energy, but because of this fails at the end of a project can be more costly than those at the beginning. It's kind of the compound effect. So sometimes it can be exponentially more to have a fail at the end of a project rather than the beginning. So plan that into your schedule if you can, think about it ahead of time. Get the big fails out the way early, 'cause that's also gonna give you confidence in your ability to work with fails. And if the fail has unwelcome consequences, just decide to honour and absorb those as a cost of chasing your goal. It's basically a cost of your human growth. Be very, very gentle about that with yourself. And also, if you spot a fail, be realistic. Sometimes we call something a failure because we had really high expectations of ourselves, when in real terms it's not a failure at all that we didn't get there. So don't torture yourself with a story of failure that isn't true. It's actually not a real thing. Okay, here's the big one. Agree that you are willing to feel any emotion when you fail, because then that will clear up your dread of taking action. But also decide to give yourself grace for fails, to let go of your old habits, and start rewarding yourself for trying rather than judging yourself with the fail. Here's an example from me. I've recently been trying to get a Facebook ad to work over the last number of weeks. You know what I'm gonna say here, right? This particular ad, I set it up a while back, but it's been stubbornly refusing to collect data about clicks, recording a dead zero every week. Even though I can see my page has traffic. I've tested really quite a lot of times, I've tested a lot of things, I've changed the form, the button, the pixel, the event, the metric. I've cleared the cache. I've used different browsers and extensions. I've made duplicate ads all with different settings. Nada. And this really has become a weekly ritual. More of a bash my head on the wall ritual. And I spent another half day on it yesterday. Never say die, right? But the Facebook gremlin has decided recently not to load the ads manager page. It just goes on that spinner thing and doesn't load. But then just very, very occasionally, more or less on the odds of Russian roulette, it does actually load the page. And then right after that it dies again. So yesterday, although I was feeling kind of equal parts stupid and frustrated, I did spend the morning trying to work out what's wrong as methodically as I was able to. Eventually, having followed all manner of Google advice for hours, I detected that I was not alone in my suffering and I gave up. I realized that my task fixing my ad wasn't moving my goal forwards and probably never would. So I took a different tack, I created a new ad account, completely new one. Bingo. Made a new pixel, a new ad campaign, a new ad set, a new ad, a new audience, new creative, new copy, the works. Everything new. And today the ad works. It's collecting data and I can use the ads manager, which is no longer failing to load. And just in passing, God bless you if it was you who clicked on my ad and gave me that glorious one that I was looking for. You win my free burnout video course. So really here's what happened for me, it was frustrating. I will admit. I don't love to have tech failures, even when they're not my responsibility. But through all my failures, through all my weeks of failures on this, I've never really allowed myself to think demoralising thoughts for very long. I haven't let myself dwell in that. So as all of those thoughts came up, whatever flavour they had, I might have paused and winced for a moment. I might have cursed for a second, and then I've just let them go. And I've chosen not to blame myself for the failure. I decided I would find a way through eventually, even though I had no idea how. Because often we don't know what's gonna work, right? Taking consistent action comes from the thoughts you have about your past failures and your abilities. This is a really big one coming into setting a goal. Your thoughts about your goal, your ability to achieve it, your capacity to learn the relevant new things. Your determination to keep taking action. Your thoughts about the actions you've already taken. Your willingness to feel unwelcome emotions, and any other thoughts you have about yourself as a human in relation to progressing your goal. So you have a lot of thoughts, right? I know you've been experiencing this if you're working on a goal, typically while we're thinking about planning, working on mopping up after a goal, we have floods and floods of thoughts. It really shows us to ourselves. So you're gonna have a lot of thoughts. But taking action, taking consistent action on a goal comes from your thoughts and you own your thoughts. So really choose wisely. So number three. Tip number three, persistently take the next best action and modify your thoughts accordingly so that's possible. And here's another one, tip number four, I quite like this one. Make a failure protocol. If you've been dreading failure, then just make a protocol to deal with fails when they come up. And make this protocol something you can use every time you deem an action is a fail. And really what you use your protocol for then is to decide ahead of time what to do when you fail. So you create a protocol to encourage, motivate and reward you in the moment of failure. And create this protocol as if you're gonna give it to a 4 year old. That's the kind of level of encouragement and care and motivation you need to bring into it. And so some questions that you could ask if you're gonna prepare this protocol is, number one, what actually is a fail according to me for my goal? So you get to make that up. You get to decide what an actual fail looks like, what a fail doesn't. Question number two, when I fail, how do I want to think about it? Okay? And the next question going with that, what am I gonna make the fail mean about me, about my goal, about the task I just did and about the next task I'm about? Or even about my schedule and my timing. Whatever is the sticky point for you, ask yourself how you would choose to think about that sticky point when you have a fail, such that it'll give you a result that you like, which will be, you could keep going with you goal. So question two, really when I fail, how am I gonna think about it? Question three, what emotions am I willing to feel to keep going when I fail? This could be a real long list. It might help you if it is. And if you need to to tackle a certain emotion specifically, then do that. Okay, when I feel this emotion, shame is a big one for me. When I feel shame, I'm going to be willing to feel it. And then I'm gonna think... Give myself a new thought to think that encourages me to continue in the face of shame. So question three, what emotions am I willing to feel to keep going? Question number four, how will I reward myself for the fail? And one of the things that springs to my mind is giving myself a badge. I could have a 10 failure badge and a 20 failure badge, and I could really want to get that badge. Because then I get the little dopamine hit of achieving that milestone for me, and it will help me to be motivated to continue. So tip number four, make a failure protocol, and make it a very kind and gentle one. My recommendation. Some my friends, they're my top tips about how to work with fails. This is gonna be your new goal superpower. This is what will keep you going when everybody else, when lesser mortals stop, okay? So really make failure your new best friend. Because people fail at goals because they don't like the thoughts and feelings that come up on the way. Think about this. What deals are you gonna make with yourself about your thoughts on your goal so you're the person who does succeed with your goal, you're the person who keeps going? So I hope you enjoyed those tips today. Thank you very much for listening. If you are in burnout, it's gonna be a challenge getting goals when you're in burnout. I set burnout goals typically with my clients based on just feeling a little bit better at the beginning. But anyway, if you're in burnout, listen on for the link at the end. You must come and talk to me about how to recover quickly and sustainably and get back to your best performance leadership, and most of all, enjoyment inside work and out. If you are in burnout and ready to recover, come and join my Burnout To Leadership program. You can book in to talk with me, at burnout.dexrandall.com. Just tell me what's bugging you and let's make a plan to fix it.