Failure. Plenty has been said and written on the subject. This is nothing new...moving on and learning from failure is critical to success. But how easy we forget when we are in the midst of struggling with it.
Next time you're found, with your chin on the ground
As a child, when I was distraught about being unable to accomplish a task, my mom would sing High Hopes. At the time, I didn't pay attention to the lyrics or receive comfort from hearing the song. It was a distraction; one that was both funny and annoying...the annoyance increasing with my age.
For years, I believed it was either failure or success with nothing in between. Failure was and continues to be HARD for me. I know; it's hard for everyone. Some of us, though, take it straight to heart. My identity was wrapped up in "not failing" and when I did, I was an emotional WRECK! My inner dialogue was brutal. Failure was to be avoided at all costs; I generally would give up before facing it again.
I can now appreciate the song and understand why my mom would sing it. Persistence in the face of failure is challenging but absolutely necessary for success.
Reframe & Review
Let's keep it simple and say you decide to exercise three times per week. Week after week, you only manage one session. At best, you feel a bit lousy that you didn't meet your goal, at worst, you berate yourself and fall into a pattern of negative self-talk. What happens when you are feeling this way? Are you likely to do things that are good for you? Or are you likely to participate in less desirable behaviors because of how you are feeling about yourself?
You don't typically proceed down a path of wellness and health when you are feeling badly about yourself. It is normal and acceptable to feel disappointment and hurt when you don't accomplish what you set out to do. What happens next?
"I did not meet my goal; I failed." "I will never exercise enough to make a difference because something always happens to prevent it." Or simply some version of, "I suck." Spend too much time with these thoughts and you will stop trying. You will quit. But what if you reframe it? "I completed 1/3 of my goal." "During that one session, I kicked butt and felt great afterwards."
Instead of focusing on what you didn’t get done, what DID you accomplish?
Wait. What if you got zero of the three sessions? You can still reframe. Look at what you accomplished in related areas: "I may not have done the planned sessions but I was on my feet moving almost all day on Saturday and I went for evening walks." You could honor time off as rest & recovery, if applicable.
Whether your efforts got you halfway to your target or not at all, use this opportunity. Every unsuccessful attempt at reaching a goal or making a change is valuable ...IF you use the information that can be obtained from the experience. Not seeing this value is a surefire way to delay (or destroy) your success.
Review the potential reasons you missed the mark. You did not complete all of your planned workout sessions. Why? Is there something you could have done differently? Is the goal realistically attainable under your current (average) circumstances? Was the goal specific enough? It is truly relevant to what you want to achieve? Reviewing helps you to revise your goal or revise strategies to deal with the stuff that gets in your way. Truth is, sometimes quitting IS the answer. But not often. This is why it is critical to reframe before you review so you aren't still stuck in that negative mindset.
If you determine that the goal is worth continued pursuit, take what you learned and redo! Repeat the three steps: reframe, review and redo as needed. If after a couple more rounds, no additional progress is made, yet you know you are capable, it is time to get an outside perspective. If health or fitness related, talk to a professional who understands what you are trying to achieve.
As much as we hate it, the "F" word happens. It hurts, but it often isn't as horrible as we think it will be. I am not always successful. I can accept that. I feel the disappointment and hurt that comes with failing. Using this process has helped me continue. Making the effort that results in failing is infinitely better than DOING NOTHING. I am working towards goals that are worthy of my time and energy. I will pursue them stumbling, sweating, and occasionally dropping the other "f" word along the way.