The Art of Failing Productively

Remember that I told you about my self-imposed “4 Week Publishing Challenge” on the German sister blog of Path of Open Doors? The main challenge was to publish at least 5 posts a week, for 4 weeks — 20 posts about the Path of Open Doors and anything related to it.

Today I’m going to make good on my promise and tell you how it went… 😉 So…

Overall, I published 17 posts during those four weeks. But gosh — aren’t there 3 posts missing? Did I fail my own challenge miserably?

Well, no, I surely didn’t! Just because we don’t quite reach our goals doesn’t mean we’ve failed!

Let’s take a step back and think about what I really wanted to achieve:

I had originally taken up that challenge to force myself to publish more (more regularly and more consistently).

To make sure that I can measure my results and that I actually force myself to write, I had set a fixed amount of posts. And to make sure it’s a real challenge and not something that I could easily achieve without much effort, I’ve deliberately picked a high number — five posts per week with real content, in addition to the rest of my life, that’s doable, but it requires some discipline on my end.

But back to the original question: Have I failed, because I only managed to publish 17 articles? Do I have to be embarassed, hide in a corner and never ever again set myself a challenge?

Of course, that’s silly and exaggerated, but… quite often we fall into just this trap:

  1. We set ourselves an ambitious goal (“I’ll do sports EVERY day in the new year!!”) which takes us to our current limits or even beyond.
  2. But at the same time, we aren’t clear about WHY we actually pick this goal – and what we REALLY want to achieve.
  3. And then when we, quite foreseeably, fail our mark, the negative thoughts are starting to go round and round in our head: “I never get anything done.” – “I knew I wouldn’t be able to do that.” – “I’m just not an athletic person.” – “I won’t lose weight anyway.” – “The boss just doesn’t like me, no matter how hard I try.”
  4. … which finally leads us to belief less and less in ourselves, and to set ourselves less and less real challenges… ’cause we always fail anyway, don’t we?

I’m sure you’ve noticed the one crucial mistake in this “spiral of doom”, right? Yep, it’s in step 2: We aren’t clear about what our real goal is.

Specifically, with regards to my own challenge: My goal was to make myself publish valuable content more consistently. The 20 posts I set myself, those were just a means to an end…

And that’s why I don’t feel as if I had failed. 17 posts (in my humble opinion 17 valuable posts, but of course I’m biased… 😉 ) in 4 weeks are a very good result — and I’ve surely reached my real goal with that!

As a nice side-effect, I’ve also gained a certain routine in getting my thoughts on paper right away… a habit which will hopefully stick with me for the next weeks and months. Taking this point of view, I’ve not only passed my own challenge with flying colours, but I’ve also built a solid foundation for the future.

And that’s why I’m very proud of these 17 articles, and yes, that includes the 3 missing ones.

So this is the really important step: Be clear about what you want to achieve, and you can have fun and feel proud of your achievements even if you’ve “failed”.

Be clear about what you want to achieve, and you can have fun and feel proud of your achievements even if you’ve “failed”.

I hope you will find your own challenge for the coming days or weeks… A challenge which will move you forward on your path, and which will make you rightfully proud of yourself – even if you should fail!

Regine Becher

P.S.: Just because those 4 weeks are over doesn’t mean I’ll stop publishing. But I’ve slowed down a bit. After all, this project is supposed to be fun for me, too. And there are other things which would also be a worthy challenge. I’ve already got a few ideas… 😉

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