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5-Minute Sales Coach: Ambitious goals can counter fear of failure

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By Bill McCrary
Bill@Sandler.com
Published Nov. 3, 2015

When was the last time you failed? Has it been a long while? Too bad.

Failing every now and then can be good for us. Every failure is a chance to learn how to do better next time and to experience professional growth. Failing is a great way to ultimately be more successful and satisfied with life.

2015 Bill McCrary-headshot
McCrary.
People who never fail are usually the same people who never take chances. They don’t set ambitious goals that force them to stretch their skills. Instead, they set safe goals that they know they will accomplish without much trouble.

Or perhaps they don’t bother setting goals in the first place. It’s so easy to fall into a routine; routines can be comfortable and rarely bring major disappointments. But people who never try to break out of their routines rarely accomplish anything great, either, because they never challenge themselves.

Life — and work — is so much more rewarding when you set goals that give you something to aim for every single day. But setting bold goals means you have to be willing to fail.

Why? Because if you set career goals that are truly worthwhile —goals that, once achieved, will leave you better positioned for success (perhaps through sharper skills, broader experience, or a stronger social network), you’re unlikely to achieve each one on the first attempt. Sometimes it may take you two tries, or ten.

But really, coasting through life and never challenging yourself is its own kind of failure, isn’t it?

So if you’re in a routine and you never set demanding goals for yourself because you’re afraid to take risks and afraid to fail, I want you to do something. Find a few quiet minutes and think about what you’d really like to accomplish in your professional life (and maybe in your personal life, as well!). Make a list. What would you like to do? What do you want to be known for? What professional relationships would you like to have? And don’t limit your aspirations because of any previous success or failure.

Now, the goals you set don’t have to be especially glamorous. And they don’t all have to be so big that they’ll take you many months or years to accomplish. All that matters is that they mean something for you, and that pursuing them will take you at least a little out of your comfort zone—and I recommend that you include at least a few that will take you some distance from your normal routine.

Once you have your list ready, prioritize the items on it. Which goal is most important? Do some goals on your list need to be accomplished before you can get to work on the others?

The next step is to take your highest-priority goal (or perhaps the one that you want or need to accomplish first) and break it down into the specific and measurable steps required to achieve it. This is the process that will (1) give you a real sense of control over your future and (2) help motivate you to keep moving forward, one completed step at a time, toward professional growth, success, and a more satisfying and rewarding career and life.

Do you want your career to be routine, or remarkable? Setting ambitious goals can make the difference—as long as you’re willing to accept the possibility that you could fail before you succeed.

Bill McCrary, a speaker, coach and trainer, founded Strategic Partner, an authorized Sandler Training Center, in 1997 after a 20-year corporate career with Fortune 500 companies Georgia-Pacific and Wyeth Labs. You can contact McCrary at 803-771-0800, www.sp.sandler.com or Bill@Sandler.com.

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