“Failure is a better teacher than success,” as the saying goes, but let’s face it, none of us want to fail at endeavors that are important to us.
If you’re serious about succeeding at something, here are 9 things that will improve your chances that you can start doing now:
1. Do your research first.
One of the primary reasons people fail at their endeavors is they don’t do enough research beforehand.
They leap into the great unknown with enthusiasm, only to have an “I’ve made a terrible mistake” moment once they realize they were poorly suited to this pursuit.
Alternatively, they might get halfway through their endeavor only to discover that there were much more efficient methods available. But those needed to be sorted out before they began, not halfway through.
As such, if you’re determined to achieve a particular goal, the best thing you can do to set yourself up for success is to do as much research as you can ahead of time—both on the goal itself and on what you need to do to attain it.
For example, if your goal is to run a 10k marathon next year, don’t just buy a pair of shoes that your friend recommended. Go to a podiatrist and find out what your stride is like, and they’ll recommend trainers that are best suited for the way you move. Then get a checkup to determine if you need to make accommodations for your cardio or joint health.
It’s better to consider all possible hindrances ahead of time so you can find a way around them, rather than being sidelined halfway through your pursuit.
2. Start! (You can’t succeed if you don’t.)
I have an aunt who’s been planning to go on a diet for 30 years now.
Every time we talk, she goes into great detail about the diet plan she’s going to follow, the exercise equipment she purchased, and all the great things she’s going to do once she loses 100 lbs. Of course, this diet is always going to start next Monday, or after Christmas, etc.
If you’ve been making excuses for why you haven’t started doing The Thing yet, stop that immediately. If you don’t start now on the pursuit you’ve been dreaming of for ages, you’ll never achieve it.
No matter what excuse you’ve been using up until this point, stop repeating it and get going.
You’ve done the research, you’ve gotten the materials, so literally, the only thing getting in your way now is yourself.
This might be self-sabotage because you’re afraid of potential failure, but the only way you’re guaranteed to fail is if you don’t start right now.
3. Develop a growth mindset.
If you aren’t yet familiar with the concept of a “growth” mindset, it’s the idea that you can keep growing and evolving through experience, rather than being set and stuck in your ways.
For example, someone may think they’ll never be able to achieve a particular goal because they aren’t smart enough, and that their perceived limitations are fixed.
Maybe they had an IQ test at age 12 and were told that their results put them on the “low-average” end of the spectrum.
As such, instead of recognizing that these tests can be inherently flawed, or show poor results if the person is nervous or tired, they use the number they were assigned as a limitation for what they’re capable of achieving.
They convince themselves that they’re incapable of growing or evolving beyond the confines of how they’ve been categorized.
In contrast, a growth mindset encourages a person to be expansive in their thinking and personal development. It may include:
- Persistence: continually striving towards their goal, even when they don’t feel like it.
- Continuous learning: taking on board new information or techniques as they become available.
- Seeing challenges and “failures” as learning opportunities: every misstep is an opportunity for a new, more effective approach!
- Accepting and utilizing constructive feedback: letting those with greater skill or experience offer helpful advice, rather than closing off to it out of pride.
- Catching and stopping “fixed mindset” thoughts when they appear: not succumbing to negative self-talk like “I’m not smart enough for this”.
4. Determine the approach that works best for you.
You know how some people prefer to exercise in the morning and others do better working out in the afternoon?
Each of us has approaches and methods that work well for us but may be terrible for others.
This goes for everything from adhering to our own circadian rhythms for better sleep and understanding our ideal dietary macros to finding out which approaches inspire and motivate us rather than stifle us or stress us out.
For example, some people do well with goals that they can use to stay on course and measure progress consistently.
Whereas others do better with a more flexible approach in which they meander on and off the path (as long as they maintain some measure of forward momentum).
If you know your Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), do some research to find out which approaches may work best for you. Don’t know your MBTI type? Take this free test.
For example, I’m an Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Judging (INTJ) type and I do very well with S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-based) goals.
But those may be too constrictive or stressful for Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiving (ISFP) or Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling and Perceiving (ENFP) types.
These types may do better focusing on personal growth and development, rather than measurable goalposts that can be analyzed and ticked off as they’re achieved.
5. Know the reality of a situation, rather than assuming details about it.
Another major reason why people fail at various endeavors is that they go into them assuming they know all the details about their pursuit, rather than admitting to gaps in their awareness or education.
We tend to idealize situations and daydream about all the amazing aspects of them rather than educating ourselves about the whole picture.
For example, let’s say someone is dreaming about running a hobby farm with chickens, goats, and maybe a couple of horses.
Chickens are amazing animals to raise for both eggs and insect control…as long as they don’t catch Marek’s disease, or get massacred by weasels.
As for horses, everyone knows what horses look like and even how they smell, but are they fully aware of these animals’ incredible physical capability and unpredictable nature?
It’s only after spending time working with horses that you can truly learn how strong, wonderful, and potentially dangerous they can be.
You need to thoroughly know and understand the subject you’re immersing in. If you focus on concrete reality, rather than daydreams and assumptions, you’ll give yourself a better chance of success.
6. Know who to listen to, who not to listen to, and when to listen to no one.
Using other people’s mistakes and hard-won knowledge can be invaluable for improving your own chances of succeeding.
Here’s an example:
A friend of mine did her yoga teacher training in Costa Rica and ended up in the hospital with dengue fever from insect bites. As such, when a mutual friend considered doing similar training, she was able to get first-hand advice to avoid experiencing the same.
In cases like this, listening to someone else’s advice can help you avoid serious setbacks.
In contrast, when you hear advice from someone who hasn’t got lived experience but counsels action based on something they heard from “some guy,” that advice could be rather questionable.
For example, firsthand suggestions to wear light-colored, Permethrin-treated clothes to fend off mosquito bites is sound, whereas a suggestion to stop bathing to scare them off with your B.O. is terrible.
Listen to what others have to say, and if their personal anecdotes seem sound to you, then heed them.
Otherwise, follow your instincts, do your own research, and stick to what you feel is right.
Your intuition is likely your best course of action in most situations.
7. Develop mental and emotional strategies to deal with setbacks.
Most of us know someone who crumples at the first sign of potential defeat rather than rolling with the punches and getting back up again.
Maybe they hit a stumbling block in their academic career due to lack of funding, or a health crisis and choose to throw in the towel, seeing the setback as a sign to give up, rather than an obstacle to maneuver their way around.
Don’t be that person.
Setbacks and roadblocks are inevitable, no matter what we’re trying to pursue.
So developing coping skills to deal with any kind of stumbling block is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. By doing so, you give yourself the ability to adapt and keep moving forward, no matter what.
Cultivate the coping strategies and mechanisms that serve you best. Some people do well with stoicism, others with journaling or talk therapy, and so on.
Once you’ve found the strategies to help you move through the difficulties you’re bound to encounter, you’ll have a much easier time navigating them when they appear.
8. Maintain unyielding patience towards yourself.
We are always our own harshest critics and will criticize and punish ourselves a thousand times more fiercely than we would anyone else.
When you think about the negative self-talk you’ve abused yourself with, would you have tolerated that kind of cruelty directed towards someone you love?
Would you think it was okay for your child or spouse to be told that they’re too stupid or undisciplined to attain their dream?
In fact, you’d be the first to reassure them that what they’re experiencing is a temporary setback.
You might remind them that they aren’t functioning at 100% because they’re tired or unwell and that tomorrow offers another opportunity to keep pursuing what’s important to them.
Those who are often the most successful at their endeavors aren’t the people who treat themselves like cruel overseers but are instead like gentle grandparents.
They have the perspective of seeing the big picture and use reassurance and encouragement to keep their loved ones motivated towards their goals, rather than criticism or condemnation.
There doesn’t have to be a rush to succeed at your pursuit, regardless of what it is. It’s absolutely okay to spend 20+ years working on your university degree if that’s how long you need.
9. Allow others to help support you.
Believe it or not, having a strong support network can be invaluable for succeeding in your endeavors.
When people who care about you know that you’re striving towards a particular goal, they often step up and help you however they can.
Depending on what your goal is, this support can range from helping with childcare or errands to being accountability partners or cheerleaders when you’re struggling.
Let your friends and family members know what you’re aiming to achieve, as well as the best ways they can support you.
Be very clear on this, because what they might consider supportive may be unhelpful to you.
For instance, you might really appreciate them sponsoring you for that 10k charity run but would be mortified if they showed up with colorful banners and balloons to cheer you on near the finish line.
If you don’t have close friends or family who will support you in achieving your goals, consider working with a life coach or therapist.
They can help to keep you on track when you feel like you need some extra help. They may even have suggestions or feedback that you hadn’t considered that could be immensely beneficial.
No matter what it is you’re pursuing, putting these actions into practice can help you succeed.
So start right now, without any excuses.
You got this.