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Why You Should Fail More at Life

How to let go of expectations and rediscover what's really important in life

Published on: July 16, 2021

hopeful content woman on a beach smiling at a sunset horizon

Over the last 50 or so years, we’ve witnessed a strange shift in the definition of success. Success used to mean becoming excellent at one thing. You could be a successful writer by authoring great books. You could be a successful cook by creating delicious meals. You could be a successful businessperson by getting regular promotions at work.

Today, however, the scope of success has shifted, from being good at one thing to, well, just about everything. It’s not enough to just excel at the office. Now, you’re expected to be an all-star at work, a devoted parent, a perfect spouse, a regular at the gym, someone who reads books and has interesting ideas, and a sexual rock star.

There’s a phrase for this dysfunctional modern definition of success: “You can have it all."

There’s only one problem with this modern motto. It’s impossible. You can’t have it all because succeeding in any one of these areas negates your ability to succeed in another. 

So, today, we’re encouraging you to do something that might seem crazy. We’re encouraging you to start failing more at life.

How do you do that? 

More importantly, why would anyone in their right mind want to do that?

Identify your “musts”

There are three kinds of activities in life: things you enjoy, things you feel neutral about and the things you do because you “must.” Some of these things in the third category have to be done. So you suck it up and do them. But some of these "musts" are obligations brought on by a mixture of cultural expectations and social pressure. They are prime targets for your "failing at life" experiment. Here’s how to do it: See what happens when you intentionally fail at these tasks.

You might notice fear, anxiety or shame. But you might also notice that by failing (by not doing, or certainly not excelling) at these things, you have way more time and energy to devote to other things.

Identify your “I love to’s"

This experiment in failure isn’t some psychotic attempt to ruin your life. It's the opposite. It's an experiment designed to give you more time and energy for the things you actually love to do. By failing at being an active volunteer at your child's school, for example, you can now start that new business, book or project you’ve been putting off. By failing at writing work emails late into the night, you can now connect with your partner at the end of the day or spice up your sex life.

And that’s part two of the experiment in failing at life — use the extra time and energy generated by failure to become more engaged in the things that matter most to you.

This article was originally published on the 80/80 Marriage blog and republished with permission. 

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