Failing my way to success

So, for the month of January, I posted here nearly every day. I had committed to posting every day, but missed twice, both times mostly because I couldn’t sweet talk my brain into cooperating and coming up with anything worth writing about. Ironically, having hit 29 out of 31 days was much more difficult than hitting all 31 days would have been.

What?

Yup. You know how it is. You set out to do something and you get at it, day and day after day. It’s not yet a habit, but it’s something you’re thinking about, planning for, making time in your schedule to do. And then, you miss a day.

I don’t know what it is about missing a day, but it kind of just sucks the life right out of me. I posted for 18 days in a row — 18 days, people! — and then missed on the 19th and felt like the other 18 days of work were entirely wiped out and inconsequential. The streak is broken. Perfection is out of reach. Might as well just give up. Right?

In all honesty, once I missed that 19th day, the 20th day felt like a real struggle. Like my creativity had dried up or gone on vacation without letting me know in advance and I wanted nothing more than to just forget about the challenge — after all, I wasn’t going to hit all 31 days like I had pledged to do. I was already a fraud, a failure so why bother continuing?

Really, why bother?

I bother because failing does not make me a failure. The failure comes in not dusting myself off and getting right back at it the next day. After all, it’s the failing that teaches me the lessons I need to learn, like the fact that writing every day actually feels pretty good and that missing one post doesn’t make everything else I’ve accomplished worthless. I can’t remember a time when I went from starting out to success without some missteps along the way. Failing is some way is the nature of the beast.

Failing is good for us; it means we’re pushing beyond our comfort zone and doing things that aren’t easy and there is much to be said for sailing into rocky waters with intention and fortitude. Every time we fail we are given the opportunity to begin again — yes, the opportunity! — and that builds a habit of resilience. And a habit of resilience will carry us through many stops, false starts and times when quitting is the easy way out.

I continue to struggle with the act of starting again, and I suspect that I’m not alone in this. It’s so easy to let something go once I’ve messed up one time — but this has been a good reminder of why I need to continue. Not only is whatever I’m working on at stake, but just the act of getting back on the proverbial wagon strengthens my resilience and helps me keep at the things that are important to me. I mean, I’ll never get to where I want to be if I don’t get up after falling down, right?

5 comments

  1. Great post, and you are so right. I failed yesterday; my failure came in the shape of a loaf of bread, some butter and a pot of strawberry jam. I had allowed myself to get too hungry, and couldn’t resist the doughy comfort of the bread, and the sweetness of the jam. I was aghast at myself, even as I ate the last, delicious slice. However, having lost 19lbs since November, amd with another 20 lbs to go, I cannot now allow that small failure to eclipse my determination to get back on track. I have forgiven myself, and today I will move onwards and upwards, having learned to have breakfast before I leave the house, and not come home at mid-day with a freshly baked loaf under my arm! X

  2. I like the idea of strengthening my resilience and then calling upon that felt sense of accomplishment when I find myself wandering. My psyche and my spirit need a softer approach in forming new habits. I’m sure that has much to do with my Catholic school upbringing where we were shamed into compliance instead of gently encouraged and applauded. Congratulations on finding the approach that works for you! Maintaining a writing practice is so important to me. I can fully relate to the need to write daily to keep that practice alive and flourishing. I also allow myself incubation days where I work with various art forms to enter the creative process with images or with color. Sometimes that small break rejuvenates me and deepens the writing that follows. Great conversation, Laura, thank you. xxoo

  3. Sue Ann, you always leave such thoughtful comments! I find that focusing on the idea that I’m building resilience by getting back up rather than chastising myself for falling down makes my heart feel better. 🙂

  4. Penny, oh girl, I share your love for a good loaf of bread! It’s one of my favorite comfort foods. Good for you for realizing what went wrong, but mostly good for you for forgiving yourself. One meal in a lifetime of meals is not a dealbreaker. And congrats on the 19 lbs! I know how hard it is!

  5. I love your writing voice, Laura. Your posts are always so lovely to read. I can completely relate to wanting to go into a shame spiral when my idea of perfection isn’t met. I’ve had to really focus on valuing how I feel versus how much I get done. My sense of self’s default is to equate my value with how productive I was that day. Can’t wait for your next post!

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