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Start with Why-NOT

Updated: Sep 27, 2023

If you are unaware of how you could fail, you cannot be fully prepared to succeed


If you have a goal or vision that is important to you, then knowing your why—the reason or purpose to pursue your goal—is already clear to you. In order to make your best effort to succeed at your endeavor, it may be imperative for you to identify, plan, and prepare according to your why-NOT, the reasons why you could fail to reach your goal.

Since success necessarily involves a chance for failure, it is wise to be aware of all possible sources of opposition. Some obstacles may not be revealed until you are well underway to your goal. Preparation to achieve an aim, therefore, is not a one-time activity.

At the outset of any endeavor, you may not know what will prove to be your greatest obstacle. In fact, your greatest obstacle may arise unexpectedly. Plan as you are able, and sustain a positive attitude about learning throughout your endeavor. As mentioned, revisions to your course and efforts should be expected and welcomed, since they can increase your potential to achieve. Again, if you don’t consider your why-not, you can’t put forth your best effort to succeed.

Success and You

Give your best to your “why” by knowing your “why-not,” then prepare accordingly. Your why-not can be difficult to recognize, especially if it involves you.

It may be worthwhile to occasionally reassess that which could contribute to or cause the failure of your goal. What might you have overlooked? Could one of your obstacles to greater achievement be you? Before you dismiss this possibility, consider some introspection. The extent to which you are aware is the extent to which you’ll be able to plan and prepare for your endeavor.

Introspection could be invaluable to a pursuit. Increased awareness, however, does not mean greater knowledge. Reflection on your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors is important, but does not mean that you understand them or that your conception of them is useful. Associations made with awareness are not, necessarily, accurate. The point is, simply: awareness poses possibilities that may be important to have in mind as you plan and prepare for success.

Increased self-awareness also involves looking outside of yourself. Consider what others may have to say about you. This information may lead you to ideas for safeguards that, if in place, could help ensure greater progress and achievement.

As you consider yourself, have regard for that which you may not want to accept as being true. Are you easily distracted? Are you easily discouraged? Are you lazy? Do you excuse yourself from failures? Are you willing to endure difficulties? What are your weaknesses? This line of questioning could reveal areas to address as you plan.

Success doesn’t just happen; success is achieved through effort that involves self-improvement. Openness to improve, therefore, can reveal more about someone than what they have accomplished.

Safeguard Your Success

Preparation to succeed is not necessarily preparation not to fail. As you plan your course to success, draw from what you know about how and why success could be lost. While these areas of preparation may seem the same, they demand different kinds of awareness from you.

A major challenge to productivity is not one’s lack of preparedness to work, but, rather, one's lack of preparedness for why one won’t work – for one’s why-not. Your preparation to succeed should include safeguards against why you could fail, not merely safeguards that protect and promote progress.

Safeguards serve two important purposes: (1) to promote the integrity of productivity; and (2) to prevent or minimize opposition to one’s being productive. Safeguards should address your complete course to success.

Protective Safeguards

Safeguards that promote and protect your plan to be productive – to help ensure your success

Preventative Safeguards

Safeguards that account for the possibilities of opposition, interference, and other anticipated distractions to your being productive.

Certainly, try to avoid failure, but whether you succeed or not, always look to learn, which will give you a degree of success in all of your endeavors.

You, Yin, and Yang

Our plans to advance towards a goal are often conceived of in constructive terms—“aid,” “build,” “accomplish,” “create,” “develop,” etc. A complete plan, however, requires your consideration of and preparation for the possibility of forces that are destructive —“interrupt,” “delay,” “interfere,” “preclude,” etc.

In order to be prepared to achieve your goal, consider possible fail points in these areas:

  • conflicting interests;

  • degree of knowledge;

  • skill level;

  • plan;

  • preparedness;

  • assumptions / expectations;

  • beliefs;

  • motives;

  • personality;

  • support resources.

As you think-through your course from “A” (where you are today) to “B” (where you are once you reach your goal), plan and prepare for the complete range of possibilities, which, necessarily, involves consideration of all that is constructive, positive, as well as consideration of what is on the opposite end of that spectrum.

Know Your Agents

Agents are those accompanying and, often, less regarded means, conditions, elements, and settings that contribute to or facilitate productivity. Examples include: electricity; computer, and other equipment; Internet access; an office; the weather; the status or manner of something on which you rely—transportation, money, supplies, your car keys, appropriate attire, etc. Think through the agents on which you rely to be productive.

Your success may require mindfulness of certain details. Try to identify the agents behind the primary drivers for your productivity. Think through the possible pitfalls that could result from the failure of agents.

As an exercise, complete each sentence with reference to an agent related to the goal:

  • A goal to increase sales for a business involves…

  • A weight loss goal requires…

  • A goal to learn a skill involves…

  • A financial goal may involve…

A Realistic Perspective

Commonly, goal-oriented people approach their ambition with enthusiasm, like interest in a new friendship. The effort to create or develop something is easiest at the outset, in the first of two phases of a pursuit of success: initiation.

In the initiation phase, we tend to be motivated, inspired, and focus on positive aspects of possibility, discovery, achievement, and the process that leads us to desired experiences. The second phase is validation. Here, the pursuit must weather challenges to prove its genuineness. In this phase, commitment to the goal is tested—validated.

The excitement of a new pursuit—goal or vision—may be sustained through difficulties, if awareness of what may present difficulties is anticipated. Know or seek to know your why-not, because: (1) it exists; and (2) it could derail progress towards your goal, if you are unprepared.


Achieve your most ambitious goals! Take the next step toward what you want to improve, achieve, or become in your personal life or for your business. Support for: sales, goals, productivity, personal-development.


Copyright © 2022 Steven Robert Young. All rights reserved.



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