I recently applied and interviewed for a job that would be a reach in terms of qualifications. For the role I’m applying for, I prepared for the interview, took my shot.
I didn’t get the position. I was not surprised, but still disappointed.
Recently, I also tried to run a 72 minute half marathon. This means each mile had to be under a 5:30 mile pace. I tried to go that pace and was successful for about six miles. Then, I hit mile seven and my race fell apart. I went up a huge hill where I rapidly ascended 200 feet.
It took a lot more effort to go at the same pace, but it wasn’t the same. My race fell apart, and people who went out slower than me passed me. I still ended up running a personal best by 90 seconds. However, I fell short of my half marathon goal by a couple of minutes.
In both cases, I didn’t hit my goal. But I did try, and I did give it my best shot.
What I learned is both cases weren’t failures.
There’s a time and place for taking the risk and taking your shot. There are times you have to make your move.
Lofty and ambitious goals tend to come with the possibility of failure. The loftier the goal, the bigger chance you fail.
The fact also is there’s much more someone can learn from failure than they can from being on top of the world — for me, at least. You learn how to bounce back and deal with adversity, to adjust, and let bad days (which are inevitable) go.
There’s a stage of failure where we attribute it to ourselves and a lack of ability, but it tends just to be a stage.
I am proud I tried and pushed myself past my comfort zone. But at least in running, would I have been better off if I ran my race more conservatively, met myself where I was at, and listened to myself and my body more? Probably.
I used to find a lot of virtue in trying and working very hard, even if I did not get results. Now, I realize trying too hard could often lead to shooting myself in the foot. Now, I learned not to be too tied to a time, but to run by feel.
Are the goals themselves the problems?
Falling short does not always mean failure. But maybe it’s not about falling short, though, and maybe it’s about the kinds of goals we make. It’s not that I was making goals that weren’t realistic, but I was making outcome-oriented goals where not every factor was in my control.
My interviewers could have had bad days or been predisposed not to like me. It was absurdly windy on the day I tried to run, and the course conditions also hampered my ability to hit my goal. Life doesn’t work out like a fairy-tale because the mess of real life happens.
Our ability to hit our goals is much more dependent on luck than we’d like to admit.
I used to have much more of an all-or-nothing mentality. Now, I learned to make more process-oriented goals. I keep much more of a growth mindset than an “I must hit the target or it’s completely a failure” kind of mindset.
Process-oriented goals are goals that are more within our control. Instead of running a certain time in the run, you can control the amount of effort you would like to give for a certain point of a run.
Sometimes, getting started is exactly where you’re supposed to be, and it’s something to be proud of.
Of course, we all have performance and outcome goals. But the path to improve and get where we want to go is not immediate, but gradual.
Taking more shots and risks is something to be proud of
I feel like preaching to an awkward high schooler asking someone they’re interested in on a date — what’s the worst that’s going to happen if you don’t take your shot?
In my case, the world didn’t crash down. The sky didn’t fall.
An earlier version of myself would have always played it safe, and perhaps not applied and interviewed for a job I didn’t think I was going to get.
Falling short is sometimes the best outcome you can get. It shows you aimed high and tried, and this doesn’t just apply to achievement-related goals, but goals in being the people we want to be.
I realized that at the end of the day, almost everyone gives life everything they have. Aiming high and falling short is a sign we pushed ourselves to be better and expect more — what do we have to apologize for?
This post was previously published on The Partnered Pen.
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