I have found it very empowering to write this past few weeks about looking at goals with fresh eyes and noticing where I’ve missed the mark. Remembering it is possible to correct and move forward gives me more energy and motivation to go for the goals that remain in front of me. One of the things that has been particularly powerful is being willing to be really look at the truth of the situation, not gloss over it or pretend it doesn’t matter. I’ve allowed myself to be frustrated or upset or thrilled as the goal and situation calls for. It’s quite liberating.
Of course because I’ve been thinking about it, an interesting article from Time Magazine arrived in my inbox. It focused on the importance of “embracing the sting of failure” as the best way to recover from and move on from mistakes. (You can read the article here or click the post-it graphic on the left to get there). It turns out that just shaking something off doesn’t help when it comes to moving toward success after setbacks (sorry Taylor Swift!). In fact, it limits our ability to move forward successfully.
But it’s more than that.
Once we are experience the emotions that go along with the setback, we’re more ready to move forward because we’re not hiding, suppressing or carrying the wait of those feelings. We don’t fear failure the same way because we’ve experienced it and moved through it. We know it doesn’t have to stop us and it doesn’t have to be ignored. There’s a new kind of freedom and with that freedom comes clarity and fresh motivation.
Looking at the journal article Time Magazine references, “Emotion Knows Best: The Advantage of Emotional versus Cognitive Responses to Failure” from The Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, it is clear that Time didn’t take the issue far enough. The study showed that “self-protective cognition” – those thoughts of just shaking it off and getting back to work – limits our ability to improve. However, when we combine thought and emotion, the results are much more powerful. You want to experience the feelings and connect them with any new knowledge on what to do better, especially if this hasn’t been what you’ve done in the past. If you’ve never taken the time to feel the emotions that come with any kind of failure then you likely have stored this emotion and it needs release – because it’s holding you back.
I know this was very true for me this past summer. Trying to write two new books to complete a series under an incredible deadline was, as I blogged about a few weeks ago, an incredible learning experience and filled with setbacks and missed goals. One of the main things I learned (in part because of other things going on in my life) was to take the time to feel really lousy when I got behind. Not beat myself up. Not punish or talk harshly to myself because I “screwed up yet again”, but instead really open myself up to the feelings and honestly feel crappy.
And then respond to myself the way I would when this happens to my sons or to friends.
I started with feeling horrible and mixed that in with self-understanding and kindness. Feeling the suckiness of being really behind along with the loving thought of – “Yes, that happens. I’m so sorry. What can I do? How can I help?”
The answer to the first question was to have a bit of a cry, which allowed me to experience the emotions and get them out. The second question – how I can I help – was to look at my goal, the word count left to do… and start again. I looked at my schedule honestly so I would know which days would be good writing days and which weren’t, redistributed the word count, and moved forward with a clean slate, ready to take aim and fire again. One of the added benefits to this was that I was able to ask for more of what I needed from my family so those days with big word count goals would be protected from added scheduling.
We’re really not wired to just shake it off. It may improve the moment, but not the long run, not our ability to have our goals and our desires. And as you know, for me it always comes back to living those powerful desires. When we disconnect from one set of emotions, we change our ability to connect to any of them.
So, fail along the way, just be certain to accept and appreciate the emotions that go along with those setbacks to that you can continue to keep moving steadily into living your desire.
Next week – The connection between a clean slate and living your desires.