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Why planning for failure helps you get your goals

Our brain would rather deal with us not trying than trying and failing than trying and getting things wrong. When you notice this is a choice you are making, you can decide if it is something you want to keep in your life. Or not. Though it may not feel like an easy choice at the moment, is it a choice which is moving you in the direction of your goal? When we think of failure as something to be avoided, inevitably, that is all we begin in focus on.

Our brains are wired to avoid danger and seek out safety. As a result, we often avoid situations that we perceive as risky or uncertain, even if they may ultimately lead to success or fulfilment. This can lead us to make choices that protect us from potential failure, even if it means missing out on potential opportunities. Only it doesn't really work like that. Because if we don't try, failure is guaranteed. But our brains conveniently pretend that they don't know this little maths equation.

One way that our brains try to protect us from failure is by convincing us not to even try. When faced with a challenging task or decision, our brains may tell us that it's not worth the effort, that we're not good enough, or that we're bound to fail anyway. This can be a tempting thought because it allows us to avoid the discomfort and uncertainty of trying something new. In old evolutionary terms, this “new” meant dangerous, so our brains grew to avoid these things which endanger our being.

Not all brains.

Some people were risk takers, and they tried Which berries were poisonous, which leopard they could run faster than, and which crevasse they could leap over. And more often than not, those people did not live to be your ancestors. We are all made-up of terrified people.

However, this way of thinking can also hold us back and prevent us from reaching our full potential. By avoiding challenges and difficult tasks, we deprive ourselves of the chance to learn, grow, and develop new skills. We also miss out on the satisfaction and fulfilment that comes from taking on new challenges and succeeding.

When we notice that our brains are trying to convince us not to try, it's important to remind ourselves of our bigger goals. Quite often, our brain can be prone to telling us, “it’s too much effort”, rather than revealing “This is a bit frightening,” and all the fear around the potential of getting things wrong. But If we are not willing to get things wrong occasionally, we will only ever achieve what we have already got (which incidentally involved a lot of failure to get here – you did not pop out of the womb able to hold a glass or a conversation or someone’s attention – we learnt these things by a lot of getting things wrong).

Somewhere into adulthood, we switch being confident to mean something we are already good at instead of something we are willing to try.

By acknowledging this tendency and making a conscious effort to push ourselves out of our comfort zone, we can make a choice to move ourselves towards more of what we want in life rather than thinking our sole aim is to avoid obstacles and danger. And when we do this, we open ourselves up to new possibilities. We will, of course, still face setbacks and challenges along the way, but by anticipating they will arise, rather than trying to dodge them, we can develop the resilience and determination needed to move us closer to where we want to be.


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