TIB #43: Failure Vision – The 1 thing your goals are missing to keep you focussed and motivated

Written by Arno Jansen

Read time: 5 minutes

In this issue, I’ll explain the single most important part of my goal-setting method. One that actually helps me stay focussed and get back on track if I get derailed.

I call it “Failure Vision”.

Setting goals and making plans is the easy part. Following through is another matter entirely.

There are so many reasons we loose focus:

  • We don’t have a clear plan or vision for what we want to achieve.
  • We get distracted by other things that are (or seem!) more interesting or important.
  • We don’t have a system in place to hold ourselves accountable.
  • We lack the discipline to stick to our goals and plans.

As solopreneurs, we often work many hours alone. That makes it even harder to stay accountable to ourselves. But keep in mind why you started this journey of independence.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Cue the Failure Vision

In 1999 I was studying Computer Science in Utrecht, the Netherlands. I was 20 at the time and had never been further away from home than a 3 hour drive.

At the same time, I heard all these amazing stories about Sillicon Valley startups and the “Dot Com Boom”.

I simply had to go there. Yet, I had never having been abroad or in an airplane. I had never moved house. I had never been away from family and friends.

And so, desire quickly turned into massive overwhelm.

I sat down in my bedroom, scared and overwhelmed, but filled with that desire to go. I was wondering why on earth I would undertake all this and how I could get it all done. I ended up daydreaming about what my life would be like if I did not go.

At first I felt a brief sense of relief: no need to go do all these scary new things.

Then, a gutwrenching sensation of regret if I did not go. I would take the safe path, find a job in the city, probably get a lease car and a suit and start consulting. I would not see the ocean, not experience California, not travel the US.

Vividly visualising my anti-desire, provided me with a much needed the kick in the rear. And so I started to figure out what I needed to do to get to Sillicon Valley. On January 3rd, 2000, I left for San Francisco.

And so the Failure Vision was born. In the past 2 decades it has helped me in many life decisions. A Vision of Failure is a great way to go inward and explore how badly you want this.

Not with the intention to push you through any and all resistance though. It helps you look at your goals and plans from another perspective. It makes you dig up your deepest reasons for wanting this. Or it may make you realise you are only satisfying your ego.

So, how do you come up with your Failure Vision?

1: Create Your Regular Plan or Vision

The first step in creating your Failure Vision is to create your regular plan or vision. I’m guessing you do this already in some capacity. Failure Vision can work wonders for just about any vision, plan or goal you come up with. But it works best for those big lofty visions of a possible future.

Now you have your plan or vision in place, it is time to create your Failure Vision.

2: Identify Potential Roadblocks

The next step is to identify the roadblocks that may prevent you from achieving your goal. This could be anything from procrastination to self-doubt to external distractions.

List them all out for yourself. Dig deep, don’t hold back.

Once you have identified your roadblocks,create your Failure Vision. Reflect on this list of possible obstacles on your way. Meditate, journal, talk about it with someone, whatever works for you.

What if you accept all these roadblocks as valid reasons to stop striving for your goal? What if you accepted defeat before you even got started? What if you have to live with the knowledge or even regret, that you gave up on your dream?

Also readTIB #18: “Fear is temporary, regret is forever. A personal story”

3: Stay Motivated

Now that you have your Failure Vision, let it sink in. How does that visualisation of giving up on your plan, vision or dream, make you feel?

For me there is usually one of two possible outcomes:

  1. I find I don’t really care much for this goal. Or, I find that the goal does not align with my values. In those situations, the dream often comes from a place of insecurity, resentment or ego. Realising that, makes it a lot easier not to pursue such goals as they come from a place of negative sentiment.
  2. The Failure Vision scares the crap out of me. Knowing that I have to live with the knowledge that I care so much for this dream I have, but not put in my best effort, hurts me. It creates a nagging feeling, an itch in my brain. That translates to a powerful dose of intrinsic motivation.

Creating a Failure Vision does not guarantee success. Yet, it does help you figure out if and why your dream goal is important to you. It can provide a large dose of motivation to get or keep you going.

And whenever you do hit a roadblock on the way to your dream future: think about your Failure Vision once again. 

“Remember why you started.”

— me whenever I doubt myself

Your Failure Vision helps you stay focused on your most important goals. It helps you take one more action. Push the needle ever so slightly in the right direction.

That’s it for this issue. Hope you found it helpful!

Until we meet again, next week!

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Looking to get more productive, focused, and resilient?

Join my free Focus Finder email course to transform yourself from deeply distracted to fully focused.

    Looking to get more productive, focused, and resilient?

    Join my free Focus Finder course and go from deeply distracted to fully focused.

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