When was the last time you failed to reach a goal? I’m talking about a writing goal or any type of goal. How do you respond both mentally and physically? What happens to your behavior after you fail to reach a goal? How does it impact your mindset?

For example, if you set a goal to write 500 words a day and you fail to reach that goal today, how would you react today and how would it impact your behavior tomorrow? Would you quit? Would you say to yourself, “Well I messed up, I might as well give it up”? Maybe you’d plan to come back to it in a few days, weeks, or months.

Or would you forgive yourself. Identify why you failed to reach your goal today and strive to make changes and reach your goal tomorrow?

While I think many of us, myself included, believe that we would get back up on the metaphorical horse and not let a failure set us back, more often than not that’s exactly what happens. Failure can have a significant impact on both mindset and behavior.

A slightly unrelated story…

I was doing a workout the other day that tested me on every level. It was a 14 minute CrossFit workout that they call a “Chipper.” This means that you essentially chip your way through the movements. There were lifting movements, followed by toes to bar, and followed by wall balls and so on. I had a goal to get through the first two movements in the 14 minutes. Any further would have been bonus as far as I was concerned. I failed to reach my goal. However, more important than that failure was my attitude.

Ten seconds before the 14 minute mark and the end of the workout, I realized I wasn’t going to reach my goal and I did the worst thing imaginable. I quit. I had 10 seconds to do something and I did nothing. I gave up.

Now, I know that writing goals don’t really work like that, we’re not timed.

You don’t have to get 500 words in 15 minutes or anything crazy like that – though it might be fun to try. Rather, what my CrossFit failure and writing goals have in common is the attitude and mindset after failure occurs.

I cannot tell you how disappointed I was in myself – I quit. Why didn’t I continue for the next ten seconds and give it my all? The final score was total reps and I could have gotten one rep in and increased my score but because I could see that I wasn’t going to achieve my personal goal, I threw in the towel before the workout was over.

What happens if you miss a writing goal?

Do you beat yourself up and throw in the towel? OR do you do the best you can with what you have that day? Do you celebrate, or at least acknowledge, your effort and strive to do better tomorrow?

I learned a hard lesson after that workout and have applied the lesson to other areas of my life. Think about the last time you didn’t reach a goal. How did you respond and how might you respond in a more loving, constructive, and productive way?