September 21, 2020

Fear of Failure

Tomorrow is the big day! The first day of fall and, therefore, the first day of my Cookies Fall Challenges. I'm so excited :) (I love that comparison photo above of my weight loss--isn't it awesome?!)

This is my first time hosting a challenge in the fall, and I decided to do not just one, but THREE. Something for everyone!

1) The checklist similar to Cookies Summer Run/Walk Challenge--a list of items to complete during or after running or walking. It's a way to keep running or walking interesting.

2) A mileage competition. Runners and walkers can log their mileage (you must sign up by 11:59 PM ET tonight!!). I am going to post a leaderboard each week, showing who has run/walked the most miles that week and overall. Hopefully, this will inspire you to get in some miles!

3) Cookies Fall Hard Challenge. This one is tough! And it's MEANT to be tough--hence, the "hard". The "rules" are modified from the 75 Hard challenge. There are six rules, and each of them individually seem do-able. And they are. Putting them all together is going to be HARD. 

I've heard from more than a few people that they would like to try it, but they are worried that they might fail. 

I have a lot to say about this and I hope I'm able to put it into words. Let me try to explain...

Two months ago, I started the 75 Hard Challenge. I was going full strength, 100% effort, until I learned I may have been doing one of the rules incorrectly (it was stupid). But I let that get into my head, and eventually I started slacking on a rule here and there.

I've most definitely not followed all of the rules since the beginning, and according to the entire 75 Hard Challenge, I am supposed to start over every time I make a mistake. 

Am I a failure?

On one hand, yes--I failed at doing the 75 Hard Challenge as written. However, I have walked (or biked a couple of times) for 45 minutes twice a day EVERY SINGLE DAY since July 20th! I can honestly say that I have never deliberately exercised this much in my life. Is that failure?

My "diet" for 75 Hard was intermittent fasting with a 20:4 ratio. For about 95% of the time, I've done great! But I've also had a few days where I ate way outside my window--not because I was hungry, but because I was stressed out and I just wanted to eat. While I ate on plan for 95% of the time... did I fail because it wasn't 100?

Another "rule" for 75 Hard was to read 10 pages of a non-fiction inspirational book every day. I did this, for a long time. But after I finished my second book, I just couldn't find another that interested me. I don't enjoy self-help books! But did I fail, even after reading two full books? I continued to read books, but not the inspirational ones specified in 75 Hard.

There is a rule for drinking a gallon of water a day. For me, this isn't very hard to do when I'm focused on it. However, on some days, I was too busy or too stressed to care, and I "only" drank 96 ounces of water instead of 128 ounces. Did I fail?

For 75 Hard, it's also required to take a progress photo every day (I do a full-length mirror selfie). Call me vain, but this is actually something I've excelled at! I haven't missed a single day. 

So, my point is this: While I was "supposed to" do this challenge strictly by the book, without fail--and believe me, I tried!--I didn't do it perfectly. I "failed" at the 75 Hard Challenge, and I should have started over several times by now.

Instead, I chose to just keep doing the best I could do. While I might have "failed" at the challenge, I am still a million times better off than if I'd quit the very second I made a mistake. 

It reminds me of this quote, "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll still land among the stars."

It sounds corny, but it's true! My friend Dean (who I met via my blog and became good friends with) taught me this lesson. He always aims for goals that seem way out of reach. While a lot of people would say not to aim for something that high, because there is a good chance you'll fail, he chose to think of it this way: Aim higher than you "expect" to do, and even if you don't hit that particular goal, you'll still do better than if you aim for a lower goal. You'll never realize your potential if you never push yourself way past your comfort zone!

If I had thought 75 Hard was "too hard" and I decided to modify the exercise portion to be 30 minutes once a day, I would still think that was hard for me to do. Exercising every day, without fail... that's hard for me! But I aimed WAY out of my comfort zone and shot for 45 minutes twice a day. Something that seemed impossible for me--someone who couldn't even stick with 30 minutes 3 times a week for a long time.

And I'm actually doing it!

However, EVEN IF I was to "only" do the first workout every day, I would still be MUCH better off than if I just didn't attempt it at all. Or even if I committed to 30 minutes a day! If I'd committed to 30 minutes, I'd only do 30 minutes. But by committing to 45, I'm pushing myself for 45. And if I happen to only do 40 minutes, or I only do one workout a day, etc? I'm still "landing among the stars" and doing much better than I would if I hadn't even tried.

Dean is such a great example of this!

I'll try to give you the quick rundown:

I first learned of Dean when he submitted a Motivational Monday post for his first 5K. I followed along as he lost weight, ran a 10K, reached 100 pounds lost... I called him Dean the Machine. And I invited him to join a Ragnar team that my friend John and I were putting together. Anyway...

Dean mentioned to me that he decided to shoot for a sub-2:00 half-marathon, and he wanted to know my thoughts as a running coach. He had just finished a half in about 2:15, so I told him that I didn't want to be discouraging, but I thought he should aim for more like 2:10. He thought about it, and then told me that he was going to shoot for sub-2:00 anyway--which would require shaving 15 minutes off of his time in just 4 months!

And you know what? Come April, at his goal race, he ran 1:57! I was shocked, but very excited for him. That was a huge improvement! Next, he told me that he was going to sign up for his first marathon to take place that fall... and that he was going to aim for sub-4:00. Again, I didn't want to discourage him, but I never recommend having a time goal for one's first marathon--it's challenging enough just to finish, let alone worry about pace. But Dean is honestly the most determined person I've ever met...

In October 2014... Dean ran his first full marathon. His time? An insane 3:52:43!

He explained to me this concept of "shooting for the moon" (although he didn't call it that, I promise, haha). He aims for goals that are BEYOND what he really hopes, because even if he "fails", he'll still do better than he would if he'd aimed for something that seemed very "do-able".

Take goal weight, for example. I didn't tell anyone this, but when I was hoping to get down to 133 for my goal weight, I was secretly "aiming for" 125. That way, if I got down to, say, 130, would it mean I failed? Hell no!

If I'd been aiming for 133 and I actually got to 133, I'd have met my goal--but I would have stopped there because I met the goal. If you aim higher than your goal, you'll still be better off than if you just aim for something "do-able". We want to be better than "do-able"! 

When I was training for the Chicago Marathon in 2013, my goal was to "finish strong" (basically, to have a good race and not feel like shit when I finished). I also wanted to PR--that meant running under 4:51:51 (my previous marathon time at the Detroit Free Press Marathon).

When I trained? I trained as if I was going to run a 3:55 marathon. I followed the Hansons Marathon Method and I ran my training runs as if I was going to finish in 3:55. Deep down, I knew I wasn't even going to try to run sub-4:00 (I didn't really desire to), but I also knew that aiming for it in training would make my "easy marathon" feel good! I finished the race in 4:16:23, and I was THRILLED. I honestly believe that if I'd wanted to run 3:55 that day, I could have. But my goal was to feel good throughout the race.

If I had "only" aimed for a PR (less than 4:51:51), then I would have succeeded if I'd run 4:51:50. And yes that is still excited, but I wouldn't have hit my potential. I never would have DREAMED I could run 4:16:23!). 

I found this sign taped to the house when I got home from Chicago, hahaha. I LOVE IT.

Anyway, I realize this post is all over the place, but I am hoping to convince you that you CAN do the "Cookies Fall Hard Challenge". Yes, it's hard. Yes, you may "fail" at some of the guidelines. But even if you succeed at one of them, isn't that better than nothing?

Even if you only do it for ONE DAY, isn't that better than ZERO days?

So, I encourage you... if you are thinking of doing the Cookies Fall Hard Challenge, but you are worried you are going to fail, just give it a try! Shoot for the moon!

You can find all the information on this post: Cookies Fall Challenges (Official Rules and Sign-Up Sheet).

I'm very excited to start the challenges tomorrow. Yes, I'm aiming for all three! If I only aim for one, then I might succeed at one. But if I aim for three, maybe I'll succeed at one. Or two. Or all three! Who knows?! :) 


  1. Thank you so much for writing this! I am so hard on myself and if I think I will fail, I many times don't even try. This is a mindset I need to break and I believe that these challenges will help me with that. I am excited to start tomorrow and am pushing my fear aside to get it done!

  2. Thank you for this! I am so excited about the Cookies Fall Hard Challenge and this post makes me even more excited!

  3. This is a terrific post! It is so encouraging. Thank you!

  4. You read my mind. I'm not in a great place mentally right now and I had initially really wanted to start the "falling hard" and then talked myself out of it because of fearing I'd fail. Then I thought "well maybe I could do the walking challenge since I've been walking more lately (for mental health". But then I talked myself out of signing up for it because I might fail. This is a great post. Thanks for your encouragement.

  5. I love this post. I have read it twice. But I will read it again.


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