“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” –A.Einstein
I recently read an article in Inc magazine that argued the three words in the English language that guarantee failure are “I will try”. I know this is a widely held belief, especially in motivational circles. The idea is that saying you will try, rather than stating you will do, gives an automatic option for failure. It’s as if the phrase itself undermines a person’s resolve to achieve what they set out to accomplish. If you take away the possibility of failure, or simply refuse to acknowledge its existence, you naturally ensure you will succeed, no matter what the odds.
This is a commonly held belief. After all, one the greatest icons of our time shared the same wisdom in the Star Wars saga. “Do or do not, there is no try.” Who can argue with Yoda?
I find this school of thought to be very black and white, and perhaps that is why it is so popular. It is much easier to class something as one thing or another without exploring the nuance of possibility. As I grow older I find that few things are simply black or white. I think the possibility of success is much greater when you start to explore shades of grey.
There is a lot to be said for a positive mindset, and the strength of one’s own beliefs. In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill said “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” This school of thought has shaped generations with great results. The problem is that when people make a decision to pursue a goal, they don’t often stop to consider the whole picture, or decide if it is even realistic outcome. I can set a goal to become an opera singer, but I can also pretty much tell you that I will never set foot onstage at the Met. Just not a realistic goal, even if I can believe it.
One of the jobs of a wellness coach is help clients define and achieve their goals. We act as a support system and cheering section to keep people on track and celebrate accomplishments along the way. We are also the ones who hold up the mirror. Oftentimes people can become so focused on one thing that they don’t stop for a reality check. To see if what they want to do is really realistic. Perhaps they don’t research all the possible pitfalls or obstacles they will encounter. That is one of the most important tools for success that so many people forget to consider.
I am a strong believer in preparation and persistence. If I followed Yoda’s advice, I would have to view myself as a failure. As an example, I used to smoke. For years, I smoked at least a pack a day, sometimes up to two packs. I can’t tell you how many times I decided to quit. And maybe for a day, or even up to a week once, I was successful. Finally, after many attempts over several years, I was able to claim that I was a non-smoker. Have been now for over twenty-five years.
It took more than one try. I had to allow myself to fail. Each time I failed, I learned something. Ultimately, those lessons helped me to succeed. We learn more from our mistakes and our failures than our successes. If you don’t allow yourself the luxury of failure, you make the path of personal growth and development much rockier.
I think the same can be said for any goal, be it personal or professional. If you really want something, you need to decide if is realistic, and more importantly, do you really want it? If you can tick those boxes, then plan for the obstacles and move forward.
Sometimes we decide we want to do something because we should. We listen to other people, and let them decide what is best for us. If those decisions are not in sync with what we truly want, what resonates in our core, then the chance success is less than probable. In those cases, we can make the attempt, and keep everyone happy by at least saying that we tried. There are times when a safety net is not such a bad thing after all.
So I have to disagree that people give themselves permission to fail when they say they will try. Allowing yourself to try gives you permission to persist. I’ve always felt that determination was a much more attractive trait than bravado. And determination, with regular reality checks, is a much better way to get where you want to be.
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