“So, what are your writing goals for this year?” My cousin Nathalie turns to me expectantly, pen poised to take notes. Jennifer looks up from her laptop and smiles encouragingly.
It’s a simple question. But I can already feel the rising anxiety.
We’re on a weekend writers’ retreat at the Outer Banks of North Carolina – brainstorming ideas, reading portions of our stories or articles aloud, critiquing each other’s work. It’s completely natural to talk about our writing goals for the upcoming year – this is why we’re here! So why in the world am I suddenly tongue-tied and nervous?
“Well, Michelle? Do you have any specific goals?” My cousin isn’t one to give up easily.
The whirring of the dishwasher seems unusually loud. My stomach twists in knots. All at once, I’m seven years old and standing in front of the blackboard, trying desperately to solve a difficult subtraction problem, feeling a dozen pair of eyes boring holes into my back. I wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans.
“Goals… Yeah, you know I’m not much of a goals person,” I respond slowly. “I don’t know why. I just hate making goals. Guess it’s because…”
Suddenly it hits me.
“…Because if I make a goal and I can’t meet it, that means I’ve failed.” The words tumble out before I can stop them, my voice trembling. “So it’s easier to not make goals than to risk failure.” Embarrassed at my tears, I wipe my nose on my sleeve and rub my eyes with the back of my hand.
Fear of failure can sneak up at the most unlikely times, in the most unexpected places. At the root of my fear of failure is the fear of disappointing others. It’s saying, “What everyone else thinks about me matters more than what God thinks about me.”
“You know, just because you make a goal doesn’t mean you HAVE to accomplish it,” my cousin is saying gently. “It’s just something to aim for.”
“Start small,” pipes in Jennifer. “Baby steps.”
I know they’re right. I can do this.
“Can I put, ‘drink 3 cups of coffee a day’ as one of my goals? I’m pretty sure I can meet that one!”
Laughing, the three of us are able to come up with reachable goals – for today, next week, this month, and this year. Once I’ve typed them up, I let out a sigh of relief. That wasn’t so bad.
“And even if you don’t accomplish all these goals, you’re NOT going to beat yourself up, are you?” asks Jennifer, cocking her head.
I grin and shake my head. It’s ok to fail sometimes. It’s ok to admit I’m not perfect. Because HE is perfect, and HE never fails. Taking a sip of my latte, I mentally mark ‘drink coffee’ off the list with a big check. Next on my list – trusting God to help me overcome my fear of failure, one small goal at a time – CHECK!