To Fail … so negative. Merriam-Webster defines the verb as:

  1. To be unsuccessful
  2. To disappoint expectations or trust
  3. To be deficient

How can we stop feeling badly about being less than organized, less than great, less than perfect?  How can we accept that experimenting or taking a small step could still move us to our bigger goal, without failing?

Recently, our garage became a priority.  Family had come and gone from our home, leaving behind their wares. We hadn’t put items away.  We fretted about being able to clean the whole garage in one day. So, we decided not to do it, right?  We couldn’t possibly succeed; it was just too overwhelming.  Wrong.  We felt we could still accomplish something of value, something that would make us feel good.  We decided not to fail.

Step #1:  Give yourself permission to start with a small step.  Set a time limit.

What do you know about the problem?  Is there a first step you can take to get something started?  We realized that one area was driving us the craziest because it impacted getting in and out of the car every day.  We chose to tackle that – a mish-mash of musical equipment, bicycle parts, and various tools from many projects. We set two hours as the maximum time we would spend.  In a work environment, could you create the simplest product for customer feedback:  an outline for a lengthy document or a basic version of the desired product with just a couple of functional items?  Put something in front of the customer within a day or two and welcome the reaction. See if you’re on the right track before you move too far along with the work.

Step #2: Add some fun.  Lighten the process.

What can you do to keep yourself from fearing what you face?  We turned on the music – loud – and enjoyed our favorite songs while we sorted, threw away, and put away our stuff. If you’re working alone, could you invite a trusted co-worker to bounce ideas in a pleasant environment?  If you’re on a team, could you jazz up the work area with snacks or other enjoyable gadgets?  Consider how to avoid being so serious about what you’re facing.

Step #3:  Avoid perfect.  Learn.

Do you have questions?  Probably.  Do you know all the details?  Probably not.  We followed a basic method for organizing: throw it away, put it away, or (neatly) set it aside for further action. We learned that we put too many things in that “action” pile, so we adjusted our thinking.  In any work situation, by doing and undoing and redoing until you think your output is 110% complete, you’ve probably exhausted yourself and your co-workers.  Instead, make good assumptions and move on.  Try something and see if it works.  Try it another way and see if it works better.

Did our garage project FAIL?

  1. Were we unsuccessful? No!  We set a realistic goal that we believed we could accomplish in a short period of time, and we achieved it.
  2. Were we disappointed that the entire garage wasn’t tidy? No!  We were pleasantly surprised with how much neater the chosen area was and with how much we’d thrown away in just two hours.
  3. Were we deficient in what we delivered? No!  We’d agreed that the chosen area was enough, and we are committed to setting aside additional two-hour blocks to accomplish more.

One small, successful step for your project could be one giant leap for your confidence!   

Nancy Wright
Change Agent @ Unleashing Leaders
CEO/Founder @ Wright Path Corp.