As we come towards the end of February, how are your new year’s intentions, resolutions or goals faring?
If they’ve already flexed and shifted from your original plan – a gym session skipped here; a new habit dropped there – console yourself with the knowledge that you’re in good company.
What research there is into our tradition of setting ourselves goals at the start of the year reveals that many, perhaps most, of them fail.
So should we give up – stop trying to change, or let go of our ambitions to do things differently?
We think not.
As citizens in a global community, as well as our smaller contexts of nation, organisation, or family, we’re conscious of the big challenges we’re facing. It’s not ego that compels us to strive to do things differently. The world around us is calling for bold action and big change, at every level.
The clients we work with share these grand ambitions to shift what’s possible, and transform their impact. And the nature of big goals means success can never be guaranteed. Trying is all we can commit to – and we wholeheartedly embrace the practice of dreaming, and imagining, big shifts.
What happens when we fail
Attempting bold action means also risking failure. This is something all of us need to become comfortable with. When we embrace failure, we can also start to see the lessons within it.
One global organisation we worked with in 2022 chose to lean into failure as a powerful tool for learning. They encouraged leaders within the company to reflect on and share their own stories of professional failure – starting with the CEO publicly sharing his own story of failure as a leader.
This company realised the power of failure to allow us to open up to one another on a deeper level. Bonds of trust are built when vulnerability is shared. And more than that, knowing how others missed the mark enables all of us to learn the lesson they encountered in that moment.
What better way to embed learning and accelerate growth?
Carol Dweck wrote:
“The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”
When we develop this growth mindset, we treat setbacks as an opportunity to learn. Ultimately, that leads to greater resilience, and the capacity to flex and shift our thinking to new information. If we never fail, our thinking can become set and rigid. You can learn more about developing a growth mindset in this quick video.
So, if your resolutions have failed – celebrate that!
If a goal you’ve set hasn’t turned out the way you expected, we celebrate you. You’ve stumbled on a precious opportunity for learning and growth. Don’t be so attached to success that you miss the gifts of failure – instead, leap on the chance to gather data, learn about yourself and the world.
As a final challenge, why not share your own failure story with a friend, colleague or team member. Tell them what happened, how you felt, and what you learned from that experience – and then, invite them to share your own.
The intention to learn from our mistakes is one we can get behind wholeheartedly.