Embrace failure to achieve your goals
Sometimes you must move backward to move forward
I sat there, drenched in sweat, staring at the 35-pound dumbbell. I don't know who or what made me think that I could curl this much weight for my first workout. I was out of practice and my form was terrible; I couldn't go down in weight though; could I? Would people judge me? I decided that working out wasn't for me and racked my weights.
After that fateful day at the gym a few years ago I had two crucial epiphanies: firstly, no one else cares about what you're doing at the gym. More importantly, however, the problem wasn't that I was bad at working out, I was just too focused on doing something outside of my current physical ability. As ridiculous as this example is, we often get caught in similar traps when trying to achieve our aims: once we've chosen a certain milestone as the marker of success, we are unwilling to consider pursuing smaller milestones for fear that we're moving backwards.
There is a term in behavioral economics called the "clawback incentive." When you preemptively reward someone, they are much more motivated to perform a task to keep their reward than they are to perform the same task in anticipation of a future reward. I see this principle manifest in the pursuit of goals: we set some (potentially unrealistic) benchmark for ourselves, and then are unwilling to let go of it, even if we are not currently capable of performing what is necessary to meet that benchmark.
Learning that you can't do something yet is not a sign of failure. The optimal way to reach an aim that currently seems out of reach is counterintuitive: keep shrinking the size of your goal until you arrive at something that you can consistently stick to. The best accomplishments often occur with the help of compound interest, so if you can do something seemingly insignificant today, you'll likely be much more competent at it in a much smaller time frame than you'd think.
If you keep struggling to do what you set out to, shrink your goals until you find yourself consistently surpassing them. The aim should be to optimize for long-term consistency, not short-term accomplishment.
Embrace failure when goal-setting; learning of your shortcomings will prepare you for success much better than pretending that you can do something you cannot.
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