How to Bounce Back from Goal Failure

02.04.2020 |

Episode #9 of the course How to accomplish your goals by Jordan Thibodeau and Samara Veler


“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” —Arthur Ashe


Welcome back, class.

Now that we have chosen our Big Goal, explored the Big Goal Emotional Roller Coaster, acquainted ourselves with the Big Goal Saboteurs, created a Ulysses Pact, and learned how to make our past, present, and future selves work in harmony, it’s time to revisit the Pit of Quitter’s Despair.


Riding through the Drop

Remember that treacherous drop on the Big Goal Emotional Roller Coaster called the Pit of Quitter’s Despair? When you’re working toward your Big Goal, there are two main ways that you can respond to this drop: You can use the energy from the drop to propel you up the other side, or you can slow down and wind up getting stuck at the bottom. In order to achieve your goals, you will need to be prepared to push through the low periods by turning that downward energy into the momentum you need to reach success.

During the lowest periods of your Big Goal journey, you will try to convince yourself that you might as well just quit—that your Big Goal is too hard, too ambitious, too time consuming, or just too darn unlikely to succeed to keep dedicating your energy to it. But keep in mind that these are the kinds of things that our Big Goal Saboteurs will try to tell us. Remember the reasons that you chose this Big Goal in the first place, and don’t underestimate your ability to achieve what you have your heart set on.


Course Corrections

As you work toward your Big Goal, you will need to make tiny course corrections. A major dilemma that many people face while working toward an important goal is that they become too tunnel-visioned to see the potential opportunities that surround them. If you want to see this phenomenon in action, then watch this brief video and test yourself.


Opportunity through Serendipity

The serendipitous opportunities that arise as we work toward our goals can spur our momentum and invigorate our efforts. But to open ourselves up to these opportunities, we need to retain a certain amount of flexibility. The problem with being overly rigid is that it doesn’t allow us to take advantage of the breakthroughs that come to us by chance. According to James H. Austin, author of the book, Chase, Chance, and Creativity, chance “… favors those who have a persistent curiosity about many things coupled with an energetic willingness to experiment and explore.” Your Big Goal should be approached with commitment and flexibility, so you can make adequate and appropriate course corrections.


Course Correction in Action

The easiest way to explain course correction is to run through a hypothetical scenario. Imagine that your Big Goal is to land a job at Microsoft. You do everything you can to make yourself a great candidate for the job: You learn the relevant skills, write a memorable resume, and apply for a few different promising positions within the company. But then it turns out that there are better candidates applying for every job opening, and Microsoft doesn’t hire you.

At this point, you have a choice to make. You could put your career development on hold and wait for new positions to open up, but who knows if Microsoft will ever get back to you? Alternatively, you could go back to school to improve your credentials, or settle for an underpaid, unfulfilling job to pay the bills. But these options aren’t ideal either. Whenever you fail your Big Goal, you need to make a course correction.


Finding the Essence of Your Big Goal

To find the essence of your Big Goal, just take a step back and determine what is driving you to achieve it—what attracted you to this Big Goal in the first place.

The following questions will help you discover the essence of your Big Goal:

• Why did you want to achieve this Big Goal?

• What did you think would happen to your life if you achieved it?

• For the reasons that you wanted to achieve this Big Goal, is it possible to fulfill those reasons by modifying your Big Goal?

• What steps would you need to take in order to modify your Big Goal?

• How could your Big Goal be more ambitious? If your goal is big enough, even by failing, you’ll be in a better position than you were before embarking on this endeavor.

While you said that your Big Goal is to work at Microsoft, the essence of your Big Goal is to work at a tech company that will allow you to work with and learn from the best in the tech industry. Are there other companies that offer the same opportunities as Microsoft? Yes, there are hundreds of other tech companies. So, what you need to do is reframe your Big Goal from, “I need to work at Microsoft,” to, “I need to work at a great tech company.” This broadens your horizons and provides you more opportunities to hit the essence of your Big Goal. It helps you to see that pursuing your Big Goal is leading you in the right direction, even if you don’t hit the precise target you originally aimed at.



1. Even if you don’t need to change your trajectory, consider potential alternatives to your Big Goal that you could shift to if this goal were to become unattainable.

2. Remind yourself to remain open to new opportunities.

In our next lesson—our last lesson together—we will learn what you can do once you finally reach your Big Goal.

Samara Veler and Jordan Thibodeau

Scheduling Mentors


Recommended book

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams


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