Creating Space to Fail

Written by Samantha Wall, LCSW
Edited by Joe DeNoon


Starting the new year has a big focus on setting goals and deciding what we want the new year to be. Goal setting can be so helpful to create structure and a plan on how to achieve something we want. That can mean any number of things, like remembering to be more mindful, increasing caring for ourselves, or setting boundaries with others. Francine discussed in the last blog how goals position us, and that they are not all about the outcome, but also the journey. Being flexible in our approach can be the difference between a goal we give up on and a goal we achieve, even if the look of the achievement is different than we pictured.

First, I want to acknowledge every habit we have is hard to break for a reason! After all, habits usually serve some purpose; they have helped us in some aspect at some point in our life. Not setting boundaries at work could have been positive because it earned compliments from the boss or a reputation as reliable.  Maybe drinking after a shift helps us to relax. No matter how unhealthy or unhelpful we view a habit that we have, it is there for a reason! Being able to recognize we created these habits to try and manage our emotions can give us the space to make mistakes and fail when we set goals! 

 Perfectionism can be so hard to work past, and when we live in a world where perfection is the ‘standard’ (or so we are told), it can be hard to tolerate a bump in the road. When we give ourselves a goal to set boundaries with our place of work, and then take an extra shift when we don’t want to, it can be so easy to talk down to ourselves, throw our hands in the air, and go “this is just who I am, I can’t try anymore”. This can be especially easy when other aspects of our life are already overwhelming. Tolerating failure is something we need to learn how to do when working towards a goal with anything, and personal goals are no different. We HAVE to create space to fail, so we can learn how to shift our goal to work for what we need. When I am setting goals with my clients in sessions, the questions I always ask are, ‘Is this doable?’ and ‘How can you have positive self-talk when this doesn’t go as planned?’. I always discuss how to cope with failure because it is such a big part of trying to learn something new. 

Whenever we work towards a new goal, it is important to acknowledge that things will not go perfect. We will have to make room to learn and grow through making mistakes, or changing the way it looks to reach a goal. Being able to work with our failures can create a feeling of success. Then, when we look at the failures, we see them as points where we can learn! 


“Life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.” –Leonard Nimoy.


What do you want to try and shift in the new year? 

What are ways to help yourself cope with the failure of working towards a new goal? 

How can you build resiliency in yourself this year?

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