Although I’ve never conducted a scientific poll, I’m pretty certain that most people would deny that they intentionally set out to have a life of failure. On closer inspection, it’s painfully obvious that many people do just that.

One evening I was having dinner with an inventive woman who had created a successful business in the past. When I first met her, it appeared she was looking for her next good idea.

New ideas weren’t where our dinner conversation headed that night, however. Without any prompting from me, she began a long monologue about why it wasn’t a good time for her to start another business. The list of excuses was extensive.

I listened quietly and when it seemed she was done, I said, “Your excuses aren’t even original!”

Afterwards, I wondered how many people are operating from the same excuse list. I decided to keep track and discovered my suspicions were correct: few original excuses exist.

Hardly a day passes when I don’t receive an e-mail that begins with, “I hate my job,” and then goes on to list all the impossibilities that keep them there. There’s fear, of course, although when pressed to explain, it’s usually a rather vague (or irrational) fear.

Some people have gone a step farther and created an imagined scenario that is filled with dreadful outcomes. To paraphrase Lady Holland, “Fears, like babies, grow larger with nursing.”

If someone truly was committed to failure, I mused, what would they need to do? Here’s a Plan to Fail Formula that I came up with.

° Picture it. Consider this observation from Dr. Rob Gilbert: “Losers visualize the penalties of failure; winners visualize the rewards of success.”

Keep your eyes on all the horrible outcomes that could happen to you.

° Build a team. Who’s going to help you fail? Once you identify those people, spend time with them as often as possible. They’ll convince you that you are undeserving.

Misery really does love company so there will be plenty of candidates for your losing team. Should you accidentally encounter a bold dreambuilder, make your scorn evident.

° Rename things. For instance, don’t tell yourself you’re full of excuses. Call such behavior Being Practical.

Got a job that’s driving you crazy? Remind yourself how fortunate you are to even have a job “in this terrible economy.”

° Collect evidence. We all know somebody who took a risk and it didn’t work out. These stories can be extremely useful when you are tempted to take a risk of your own.

° Take a defensive stance. As Richard Bach points out, “Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they’re yours.” Make a strong case against yourself.

° Avoid exposure. Don’t investigate new things. Keep your reading list short. Make mundane tasks a high priority.

° Make money the boogie man. Money craziness is rampant. It’s a wonderfully handy excuse. Up your commitment to never having enough.

° Amass unsolved problems. The more, the better. If you keep a problem around long enough, you’ll be able to convince yourself that it’s a permanent member of the family.

° Ignore this. Psychologist Abraham Maslow is remembered as the father of the Human Potential Movement. By all means, pay no attention to this observation from him:

If you deliberately plan to be less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you’ll be unhappy for the rest of your life. You will be evading your own capabilities, your own possibilities.