What am I doing telling you to fail? Well, there’s meaning in my madness. This is what I mean when I encourage you to fail like you mean it:
Dare. Many people have lofty dreams but never get round to giving them a go. They are afraid to fail; some even fear success because of the added responsibility it might entail.
Nothing will happen if you don’t dare; neither failure nor success. Is that really what you want?
Take action. Nothing demonstrates commitment like action. Too often people take only tentative steps in the direction of their dreams; they hold back “in case”.
Nothing changes without action. Jump in and do what it takes to turn your dream into reality. Half-hearted measures yield half-baked results.
Believe in yourself. There are no guarantees. You could put in massive action and still find that you don’t succeed.
Believing in yourself will keep you going even when the going gets tough.
Get back up. You will fail at something at some point in your life. What will you do about it? Will you do everything in your power to avoid the possibility of failure? Or will you jump right in, give it your best shot, and learn from the knocks?
If you let it, failure can be a marvelous teacher, a gift in fact. It will point out where there are gaps in your knowledge, the places where you need to make adjustments, and open up the possibility of doing things differently.
So, yes, by all means fail like you mean it. Because by doing so – by having the courage to go after your dreams – you will have won.
The other day a member of the audience came to me after I had delivered a talk and she said: “Wow, your story is so powerful!” I thanked her, and I also shared with her that I had chosen to tell a powerful story of my life. Here’s what I mean:
I qualified as a medical doctor but found that I struggled to find meaning in what I was doing when I was working in the public health system. I then took the decision to leave the profession and I’ve since reinvented myself as an author, speaker and coach.
Those are the facts of the events that happened. Now for the story.
The initial story I created out of those facts was: “I have failed. I’ve let people down. I’ve let myself down.” This was a story of guilt, shame and disappointment. This was certainly not a powerful story.
Here’s the story I now tell: “As a little girl I had big dreams of changing the world. I became a doctor because I thought that was where I could make the most difference. When I found myself working in environments where I felt I wasn’t making a difference, I made the decision to walk away. I have since written about my journey, which has helped thousands of doctors who face similar struggles. I now see that I am indeed making a difference, just in a different way to what I had initially imagined.”
Events are facts. Stories, however, are interpretations of those facts. The thing with stories is that they become the filters through which you interpret future events and the place from which you live. When I was telling myself that I had failed, I avoided situations where I thought I would be “exposed” and I constantly second guessed myself because I didn’t want to fail again. Now I happily share my story with people because I know it makes a difference.
You have a choice about how to interpret the facts of your life. You can create a story of doom and gloom, or you can choose to see the lessons in the struggles and to craft an empowering story for yourself.
- Start by acknowledging the facts. You can’t change what you are unwilling to acknowledge.
- Interrogate the facts. Ask the difficult questions. What happened? What went wrong? Could I have done things differently?
- Pay attention to the lessons and the insights. I believe that our lives have purpose and that life constantly offers us opportunities for growth and learning. Take those opportunities and learn the lessons.
- Apply the lessons. Use the insights you have gained to craft an empowering story of your life. Share that story with others, because it will also empower them.
Life happens to all of us, and it’s up to each of us to choose how we interpretation the challenges we face. An empowering story not only enables us to find meaning in what happens, it also inspires other people to do the same.
Now that’s powerful!
When I was a 4th year medical student we were required to do an 8 week rotation in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. During the obstetric component of the block we were each given a log book in which to track the number of babies we delivered as well as the procedures such as forceps deliveries and episiotomies we observed.
When I first got to the labour wards I was excited! This was our first real foray into hands-on doctoring; before that most of our work had been theoretical. I especially looked forward to helping to bring new life into the world.
It took no time at all for me to become familiar with the phrase “ek kan nie meer nie”, Afrikaans for “I can’t (do this) anymore”. The women would scream it during the final phases of labour, when the pain felt too much to bear. Some would ask for an epidural, while others would insist that they be taken straight to theater for a caesarean section.
A small proportion of these mothers really couldn’t go on any more. For various reasons continuing with the labour would put their lives or the lives of their babies at risk, and a caesar was the most appropriate route to take.
But for most, they could go on, even when they felt as if they couldn’t. With encouragement, mild pain relief and a back rub, they found that they could withstand the excruciating pain of one more contraction, one more push, until they were finally rewarded with a crying baby announcing its arrival into the world.
Are you going through a challenge in your life right now that’s left you feeling as if you “kan nie meer nie“?
Firstly, consider that it may be unwise to keep going. You’ll know if this applies to you if the particular challenge is taking its toll on your health, your relationships and your general well-being. In that case, your best approach is to stop what you are doing; ask for help; pivot and move in a different direction. Letting go of what no longer serves you takes courage, and you’ll be much better off in the long run.
However, if your challenge isn’t causing you harm, consider that, like those women in the labour ward, you may be way stronger than you think.
- Remember why you got started in the first place.
- Keep your eye on the prize, and keep taking the next step and then the next.
- Pay attention to what your struggle is teaching you. And most importantly, learn the lessons and apply them.
We all go through periods in our lives when it all feels too much. Growth happens when we appreciate our own strength and we draw on that inner capacity to keep going.
Have you ever achieved a great result and then a few weeks later wondered where it all went? Do you often experience peaks and troughs in your business, or find yourself constantly dealing with feast-or-famine in terms of the revenue you generate?
Success is great, but unfortunately it also comes with a certain amount of fear attached to it. What? That’s right. Sometimes it’s not failure we fear, but success. Here’s how the fear of success can sometimes manifest:
- You dismiss your success as “luck” or “coincidence”, and you diminish your role in achieving it.
- You tell yourself “it won’t last” and you start to anticipate how it’s all going to blow up in your face.
- You keep reaching for the next thing, so that you’re always striving and never arriving.
- You talk down your success, with the excuse of not wanting to make others feel bad.
The Universe has an uncanny way of taking us on our word, and in no time you will find yourself not following up on your ideas, taking your foot off the gas, or engaging in other forms of sabotaging behaviour.
You’ve earned your success. And yes, it does come with additional responsibilities, which can be scary. But if you want to keep moving forward, you need to sustain the level of success you’ve achieved and build on it.
- Celebrate your success! Savour it; you’ve worked hard to achieve it. Sure, there is always more to achieve and bigger dreams to dream, but pause for a moment to acknowledge how far you’ve come.
- Practice gratitude. Take a leaf out of Oprah’s book when she says: “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more.”
- Expect the best. Anticipating disaster is the best way to make sure it happens.
- Allow your light to shine. Your success inspires others; it helps them to see what’s possible.
It’s no fun to work hard and feel as if you never enjoy the fruits. Embrace each success, and you will continue to build more.
- Do you fear putting yourself out there?
- Are you uncertain about what you really want?
- Do you feel confused about why you do what you do?
- Are you on a path that isn’t your own?
If you answered YES to any of these questions, I’ve got news for you: you’re not alone! Far too many people wander through life, uncertain of who they are, what they want or where they are going.
Now here’s the really good news: the answers to all your important questions are within reach. All you need is time, attention and the willingness to do the work to uncover them.
You have within you a vast source of wisdom waiting for you to tap into it for the answers you’re after.
How? By putting pen to paper and reflecting through the practice of journaling.
Research has shown that journaling can improve physical health, emotional well-being and work performance. It is the number one personal development practice of successful leaders and CEOs. And, on a personal note, journaling has helped me to gain clarity on my goals, to process tough situations, and to give thanks for all the blessings in my life. Journaling is my personal development practice of choice!
Would you like to learn how to tap into the wisdom within you?
Join me as I guide you step-by-step through the process of journaling.
On the Wisdom Within online course you will learn to:
- Use journaling as a powerful tool for personal development
- Use the tools of journaling to connect with your inner compass
- Build self-awareness by exploring your life’s journey
- Use journaling to create an empowering story of your life
- Learn the powerful practice of gratitude journaling
- Create a compelling vision for your life using journaling techniques
You really are wiser than you think. Join me to find out!
I don’t know what my passion is.
I’m interested in so many things, I don’t know which one to choose?
I don’t want to make a decision. What if I get it wrong?
Do any of these statements sound familiar? If so, I’m guessing you’ve spent years trying this and that, dabbling here and there, chopping and changing. You’ve probably got a whole host of diverse skills and experiences, but they don’t feel as if they amount to much. You just don’t know what you want!
If this is you, then I’ve got great news for you. It might not seem so great at first, but trust me it is. Just stay with me and you’ll see what I mean.
Here it is: You’re afraid.
That’s right. It’s not that you don’t know what you want. You do know; you’re just afraid.
Who am I to want that?
I’m not qualified.
How on earth am I going to pull that off?
I don’t have the time/money/connections.
We all have a spark within us, something we are passionate about and want to express or bring into the world. Some people are really clear about what that is; they embrace it and shout it from the rooftops. Those are the people who tend to be more fulfilled in life, the ones who are following their bliss and doing the work they are here to do.
Most people, however, hold their passion deep in their hearts. So deep, in fact, that they have forgotten where they hid it! They are afraid to go looking because they know the search will dredge up all those questions about whether they are deserving, qualified or good enough.
If you are finding yourself constantly feeling like you don’t really know what you want:
- Consider that you do know; you’re simply afraid.
- Then start to pay attention as you go about your daily life. What interests you? What gets you fired up? What do you value? What do you find engaging?
Follow those sparks. They will lead you to what you really want.
Wouldn’t it be great if wishing was enough to make your dreams come true? Unfortunately, wishing only works in fairytales. In real life dreams come true through dedication, discipline and good ol’ fashioned hard work.
It’s not just any type of hard work, though. Because you can put a lot of energy into projects that aren’t going to give you the results you’re after, and end up feeling frustrated and disillusioned.
How, then, can you turn your dreams into reality? How will you know if your efforts are going to yield the desired results?
You need to construct a Theory of Change.
Say what? A Theory of Change (ToC) is a tool from the development world which is used to outline how a particular change is expected to happen. The ToC aims to minimise wishing and guessing, thereby increasing the likelihood of achieving the desired outcome.
Let’s look at how this would typically happen. Let’s say you are part of a team in a particular agency that’s looking to address a particular social problem. Your ToC would articulate how you think certain interventions will lead to the desired outcome.
- You would start by defining the desired outcome. What’s the change you are after? Who does it affect? How will you know when you’ve achieved it? By when?
- From there, you would work backwards to identify the intermediate outcomes that would need to be true in order to achieve the final outcome. You would need to show the causal relationship between intermediate outcomes, based on evidence or intelligent assumptions where evidence doesn’t exists.
Below is an illustration of a simplified Theory of Change. In reality there are multiple related pathways which ultimately lead to the end result.
The point of a ToC is that it attempts to map out a change pathway to follow in a rational way, as opposed to simply jumping from the current state to the desired outcome without giving thought to what needs to happen in between.
Of course a ToC is not cast in stone. Some of the assumptions you make about how change will come about may be off the mark. The point is not that it should be perfect; you can always modify your ToC as more information becomes available, as circumstances change, and as you learn from doing. A ToC gives you a guide to work with, as opposed to working purely from hope, wishing or unrealistic assumptions.
This tool is used widely in development circles and in government policy making, but the principle applies to any change process. You can apply this valuable tool in your own life, with the personal changes you need to make in order to achieve your goals. Here’s how to construct your own Theory of Change:
- Identify your dream. What do you want to achieve? Who do you want to become? Having a clear picture of the outcome you’re after is the starting point of making change happen.
- What needs to be true in order for you to realise that desired outcome for yourself? Our lives are a reflection of who we are – our habitual thoughts, feelings and behaviours – and any change we want to make on the outside must necessarily start on the inside. What are the behaviours, thoughts and feelings of the person with the desired reality you’ve identified? How does she operate such that she produces those kind of results? How does she spend her leisure time? Who does she hang out with? Paint a comprehensive picture of that “person” you want to become.
This is where change becomes tricky, when we realise what it’s actually going to take to produce the results we’re after. Many of us would much rather stay exactly as we are and somehow – magically – produce different results. Wishful thinking indeed!
- Now that you’ve identified who you need to become, what needs to happen in your life right now in order to move you along your path of transformation? What do you need to let go of that’s not aligned with the new you? What new habits do you need to adopt? Who do you need to get on your team or support network? Can you enlist the help of a coach or mentor? Or join a Mastermind group? Or perhaps you need to take a particular course?
Identify the intermediate outcomes that are going to make your dreams come true. Review and modify them often as you continue to grow and develop.
Transformation doesn’t just happen. It takes work, just as it takes work to bring about change in organisations and institutions. Give yourself a chance of achieving the change you’re after by building your own Theory of Change. And then do the work!
What does it take to achieve your goals and move your life in a particular direction?
Leadership! That’s right. You need to lead yourself towards the aspirations that you have for your life. Personal leadership is about being the master of your fate and the captain of your soul, to paraphrase William Ernest Henley’s Invictus.
Like all forms of leadership, personal leadership requires that you engage in certain practices that will help to move you forward in life.
How to lead yourself to achieve your goals:
Define your vision
Too often people get busy “doing” without quite knowing what they are doing and why. What is important to you? Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time? Who do you want to become? What would you love to achieve? In what way do you want to contribute? All of these questions are vital to ask yourself as you craft a powerful vision for your life.
Translate your vision into tangible goals
A vision is a lofty ideal, the “north star” that guides your life. That vision needs to be translated into tangible goals which represents the significant milestones along your journey. A good leader is able to shift from the “big picture” vision to articulate the goals that need to be achieved in order to realise that vision.
Take action to achieve your goals
It’s not enough to know where you want to go; you’ve also got to get yourself there. Personal leadership requires that you inch yourself forward on a daily basis, especially on the days when you don’t feel like it. Action is non-negotiable if you want to achieve your goals.
Establish empowering habits
Your life is a reflection of your habits, so if you want your life to be different you have got to establish empowering habits that help you to become who you envision. There is no easy way of establishing a habit; it’s about consistent practice until the activity becomes second nature. A leader sticks with these practices to establish empowering habits.
Pause to reflect
Reflection is an important leadership practice, with good reason. How will you know whether you are moving in the right direction if you don’t pause to reflect on where you are relative to where you want to be? Reflection allows you to assess what’s working, what needs adjustment and what to do differently in future. Reflection also aids self-awareness, which is an important requirement for making significant changes in your life.
Don’t be afraid to change course
You are the master of your fate, and when you realise that you are veering off course, don’t be afraid to change direction. Let go of what no longer serves you; learn the lessons that every hiccup offers, and move on.
If you are setting and working towards big goals, you will encounter failure from time to time. Guess what? That’s a good thing! Failure is an opportunity to evaluate what you’ve been doing to see why it hasn’t been working, and to do things differently.
Keep learning. Keep growing.
Personal leadership requires that you keep growing as a human being, which means that learning has got to be a life-long practice. Read; take courses; join mastermind groups; improve your skills. We live in a rapidly changing world and all of us need the agility to navigate the changes successfully. Ongoing growth and development provide that agility.
Make self-care a priority
As human beings our capacity is finite, so it is essential that we replenish ourselves often so that we can keep giving of our best. What is your self-care practice of choice? How do you “fill your tank” to ensure you keep going at top speed? If you don’t tend to your own care, how do you expect to be of service to others?
If you truly want to achieve the goals that you have set for yourself, you’ve got to become the leader of your life and adopt the thoughts, feelings and practices of a leader. That’s how you’ll move yourself forward and become the person you were born to be.
What do you do when life knocks you down? Get up, dust yourself off. And dream again.
What if you are left feeling battered and bruised? Lick your wounds clean so they can heal. Then dream again.
What about when all hope seems gone? Reach out to someone you love and ask them to help you to dream again.
What about if you feel all alone in the world? You remember that none of us are ever alone.
What happens when you feel lost, with no way of knowing which way to turn? You dream again of the place you want to be, and you take the first step in faith.
What if every dream you’ve ever had is lying in pieces all around you? You raise your chin, look straight ahead, and you dare to dream again.
What do you do when the walls won’t come down and the doors refuse to open? You stop banging, take a step back, and dream anew.
What about all the evil in the world? How do you not fall into despair? You dare to dream of a new world where our common humanity outweighs all that divides us.
What about when you feel insecure, not good enough? You dream again, and you remember the person you wish to become.
What if your dream seems far away and you are growing weary of the grind? You keep taking action, every single day, and you dream again.
You know the drill: you get started on a new project and for a while it goes well. You’re excited and inspired by what you are doing; the ideas are flowing; and you are a bundle of seemingly endless energy.
And then it starts to suck. It gets really hard. You wonder whether you’ll ever figure it out. The assumptions that held true at the beginning of the project no longer apply. And you feel well and truly stuck.
This is an important point in your project, and you have two choices on how to proceed:
- You can throw in the towel and wallow in despair.
- Or you can keep going, even when it feels as if you are wading through treacle.
The first option is where people often go. They decide that nothing more can be done, so they slap together whatever they’ve got and label it their final product. Or they give up entirely and start another project, one that looks more promising.
What you will discover if you choose the more difficult option – the one where you keep going at it against what seem like insurmountable odds – is that at some point you will reach a breakthrough.
At that breakthrough point the things that previously made no sense will come together like the pieces of a puzzle. You will feel a burst of energy and a renewed strength you didn’t realise you had.
I’ve been in that place many times, both with projects that lit up my heart as well as those that just needed to be done. In both cases that breakthrough state was exhilarating. And each time I’ve got to the end of the project, sat back and smiled at my handiwork and thought: I can’t believe I pulled that off!
You can create breakthrough moments in the projects you’re working on:
- Realise that inspiration at the beginning is great, but it won’t last. Like a new romance, the thrill will fade in time, and then you will be left with real work on your hands.
- The value of working on projects that inspire you is that they get you started on a high, and the end goal you’re after can serve as motivation to keep going. If you are doing work you don’t love, you’ll have to expend a lot of energy to generate enthusiasm throughout the life of the project. It’s exhausting!
- The tough part is inevitable. It is simply the natural cycle of any project, so don’t take it personally. It doesn’t mean the project is hopeless; that you’ll never get it figured out; or that you are not good enough to succeed. Knowing that it’s not about you will help to prepare you for that tough stretch.
- Keep going, and you will create a breakthrough. And once you do, you’ll wonder what you were stressing about all along. Ride the wave, enjoy the renewed burst of energy, and use it to produce the best work you can.