We fail in our minds long before we fail in reality.
We set our minds on a goal and, with a little wearing down, we decide we’re not going to hit it.
We see the hurdles stretched out before us. We cross the first, then the second, and just about the third. But then our legs tire. We doubt ourselves. “If there is a fourth hurdle,” we tell ourselves. “I’ll just give up. It’s too much.”
I caught myself in this negative thought pattern recently.
Moving to a new country is difficult. There are a lot of hurdles involved (visa, housing, etc). And each of those big hurdles contains smaller hurdles that seem to stretch on forever. Months of mental exhaustion and uncertainty led me to think: “If there’s just one more hurdle, I’ll have to pack it in.”
Luckily I caught this poisonous thought before it could seep into my system and rot me from the inside out.
I was setting the terms of failure way too low because I was tired and pessimistic. As such, it wouldn’t take much to fail given the soft parameters.
But what if we defined our terms of failure before we even started?
I’m not talking about that phony macho faux-heroic bullshit: “I will never fail! I will never give in!”
Life often doesn’t work like that.
We need some sense of when to give up. But, depending on our realistic chances (objectively speaking), some terms of failure can be stricter than others.
- Just say you have a manuscript and are ready to submit it to publishers. Set your terms of failure before you even send your script out. Will you give up at 30 rejections? 40? 50? 100? If you believe in what you wrote, you damn sure shouldn’t give up after only a handful.
- Just say you’re making sales calls. You’re getting knocked back on every call. When do you give up? Do you set your hurdle at 3 more calls like a baby who can’t handle rejection? Or do you believe in your product enough to say, “I’ll give up after 1,000 rejections”?
- Just say you want a model girlfriend but you find women saying they’re not interested scary. So you decide to only ask out one more girl after only one has rejected you. That’s a low hurdle. Are you gonna give up on your love life after only two knock-backs? Or will it take 10,000 rejections in a row for you to decide to become a loveless hermit?
Before you set out to do something, take an objective look at your goal.
Ask yourself a few questions:
- What do I want?
- How many rejections am I willing to take?
Then stick with it.
Set the hurdle at which you’re willing to fail, set it high enough to ensure a good chance you won’t actually hit it, then pursue your goals until you succeed or you hit that hurdle way off in the distance. This is a good technique to keep sane when you’re getting continuously knocked back and need an end – any end – in sight, while still increasing your odds of success.