Note: For ten weeks, Betty is using the Dream Coaching® program to work on finishing and publishing a book about her trip to Uganda, and is reporting on her progress in her weekly column. To read the series from the beginning, visit The introductory post is dated May 3, 2013.

Failure can lead to success.

Not only is this something I know to be absolutely true, it’s also the message of Session 7 in the Dream Coaching program. In order for failure to lead to success, however, we need to recognize the lessons that are embedded in our failures. And, more important, we need to act on them. We need to make whatever changes are called for in our lives or our circumstances. And if we still don’t succeed, we have to do it all over again.

Not long ago, I read an article that said if we wanted to make major or permanent changes in our lives, such as losing weight, quitting smoking, or writing a book about Uganda – although that wasn’t one of the examples specifically mentioned – it wasn’t willpower or self-discipline that would help us achieve our goals. It was our habits. Willpower and self-discipline will eventually break down, but the habits that we create – the actions and thought processes that become automatic to us – are the real keys to our success.

Stephen Covey knew this when he wrote “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” – which, by the way, became one of the most successful books of its kind. So even though it’s important for us to look at the steps we need to take in order to reach our goals, it’s even more important to make sure our habits – our everyday routines – support those steps and are compatible with them.

One of the “assignments” I had to complete this week was to list some of the biggest failures or setbacks in my life, and then write down the lessons I learned from them. Although the dream I’m working on now is to finish the book about my experiences in Uganda, the failures and setbacks I thought of came from all different areas of my life, both personal and professional. Even so, I discovered some common elements. The lessons I learned from them – or would have learned if I had been paying attention at the time – often had to do with not thinking things all the way through. Not making a plan and following it. Not being able to figure out what I needed to do next. The failures that resulted were usually because I got so lost and overwhelmed, so confused and frustrated, that paralysis set in. I abandoned whatever it was I was trying to do, or allowed it to fade into the sunset.

It’s different now, though. Seeing the patterns allows me to change them. And instead of concentrating only on specific actions I need or want to take, I’m working on replacing the bad habits that lead to failure, and reinforcing the good ones that lead to success.

So whenever I start a new project, or a new phase of a current one, I will look ahead to the end result I desire, and flesh out a specific plan for getting there. When I feel myself getting frustrated, confused or overwhelmed, I will focus only on, “What’s the next thing I need to do?” And when I’m confronted with a problem I don’t know how to solve, or a question I don’t know how to answer, I’ll figure out what I need to do to change that, whether that means doing some research, taking a class, or asking someone else for help or advice. Not only will this help me achieve success, it will help me get there more quickly and easily. It won’t happen instantly or automatically, but the sooner I develop the habits that get me there, the sooner I will reach the success I’m pursuing.
The old adage is true that says, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” It might also help to remember some other words of wisdom on the same subject: If at first you don’t succeed, you’re running about average. And if at first you do succeed, try to hide your astonishment.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on June 20, 2013.
©Betty Liedtke, 2013

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