January is a time for goal-setting. We make New Year’s resolutions, map out our plans for the year, and see where we are on our bucket lists. When the new year seems bursting with promise, we think big and reach for the stars, but when it comes time to put pen to paper and set S.M.A.R.T goals, we may hesitate and rein in our dreams. But we shouldn’t.
The first time I started thinking about this was while I was reading a section of Tina Fey’s memoir, Bossypants, called “The Rules of Improvisation That Will Change Your Life and Reduce Belly Fat*.”
The first rule of improvisation is to AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES.
She explains that for an improv skit to work, each participant has to go along with what the other is doing so that the scene can develop. She ties the concept to real life, saying:
Now obviously in real life you’re not always going to agree with everything everyone says …. But … at least start from an open-minded place. Start with a YES and see where that takes you.
Another relevant lesson from the Rules of Improvisation is that
THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, only opportunities.
In improv, if you misinterpret what someone else is doing, you transform what they thought they were doing (in her example, riding a bike), to what you thought they were doing (imitating a hamster on a hamster wheel). Tying the concept to real life, she comments on the “failures” that brought us Reese’s peanut butter cups and Botox. While not every mistake can be as positive and life-changing as penicillin and Post-it® notes, we often can benefit from our mistakes by more than just learning hard lessons.
I read Bossypants in 2011, and these “rules” have stayed with me. I’ve made more of an effort to say YES to opportunities at work (
even especially the ones that scare me) and to say YES to crazy adventures with family and friends.
I started thinking about dreaming big again when this quote from Robert H. Schuler was zooming around the internet, sparked by this TED talk by Regina Dugan.
Was a fear of failure holding me back from setting big goals?
My priest put this all in a different light in one of his recent Advent sermons. He pointed out how many times in the Christmas story the angels coupled their messages with a command to not be afraid.
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, he said:
Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. …. Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.
When Joseph learned that Mary was with child, an angel appeared to him in a dream and said:
Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
And when the angel appeared to the shepherds, he said:
Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah,the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
When God asks big things of us by writing big dreams on our hearts, He doesn’t want us to be afraid to fail. Even if we don’t achieve the goal that we have in mind, He can turn our mistakes into His opportunities.
Do you dream big?
Has a fear of failure held you back from pursuing a goal?