When the odds are stacked against you

Photo courtesy of Tomasz Stasluk (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Tomasz Stasluk (Creative Commons)

What do you do when all indications point to failure?

In my experience, it seems there are two camps in these situations – the ones who look at the circumstances and decide there are too many reasons why this thing they want to do won’t work. And they give up. They don’t try. They concede. They give in to the fear.

There’s another viewpoint though, and the folks in this camp notice the challenges, admit they might not be successful, and forge ahead anyway. They may have a few plans and ideas of ways around the challenges, and maybe even change the end goal a bit, after course adjusting along the way. But they try. They make the effort. They fight the fear.

I admit I’m just stubborn enough to be in the second camp most of the time. Just last weekend, I had intended to run a half marathon as part of a virtual race. Usually in preparation for running 13.1 miles, I make sure that I eat the proper things the day before, drink plenty of water so I’m hydrated, and get to bed early.

My Friday was not what I planned, and I ended up having too little food, water and sleep, plus, I got a late start on what turned out to be a really hot Saturday morning. I headed out thinking I could just muscle through it and finish anyway.

The heat began to take its toll about half way through. I had to walk a little more than I wanted, and for several miles, I would walk a bit, and then run a bit. At about mile 10 (which was still about 2 miles from home), I ended up feeling light-headed and overheated. At that point, I admitted I needed to get home, drink lots of water and call it a day. I walked the rest of the way home, finishing 12 miles instead of 13.1.

I changed the end goal and fought hard anyway. I pushed past the fear of failure, and realized I still went further than usual in spite of the fact that I wasn’t fueled or rested enough. I ended up celebrating my accomplishment.

Challenges at work can be the same way. You may be facing too large a project, with too few people and resources. But instead of just deciding that it won’t work and you shouldn’t even try, what if you make your plans, but be prepared to shift the end goal? Maybe you decide to only tackle two of the three elements, or instead of finishing on Tuesday, you slide your deadline to Wednesday or Thursday.

Personal challenges are sometimes more complicated, but you can still work toward your goals, even if you have to adjust your expectations along the way.

At least you are not giving in to the fear. And even if you fail, you will have learned what not to do next time, which will lead to greater success in the future.

In what situations should you push through, even at the risk of failure?