Dealing with Failure on Your Way to Change
No matter what your goals or how well you plan, it's likely you'll bump up against failure. How do you cope when you don't hit the target?
We’ve been able to think a lot about personal growth together in the last five posts. It has been a pleasure unpacking these ideas in a general sense with you. And though we thought about a fairly unpleasant part of making change in our lives in the previous post on obstacles to growth, this is perhaps the most difficult part of all: dealing with failure.
I am not perfect and neither are you - it is inevitable that we are going to screw things up, maybe especially when we attempt to change something that is engrained or incorporate something entirely new. And that’s tough. It can be very unmotivating but the universality of being imperfect also means that we are not alone in our struggles with change too.
You've never been this version of yourself before
I really like this quote from Kristin Lohr that says “Growth is uncomfortable because you’ve never been here before - you’ve never been this version of you. So give yourself a little grace and breathe through it.”
The trajectory of personal growth is rarely a straight line. You will plateau sometimes, you will regress sometimes. You will cave, you will trip up, you will hit a wall. That’s ok.
To me the key word in the quote is “grace”. As mentioned last time, I think we often extend courtesy to others that we don’t to ourselves. We would never consider setbacks in someone else's journey to be a complete failure, but are quick to put ourselves in the corner after minor (or major) regressions.
Whether you choose to breathe through it, or take some time for mindful reflection, or talk it out with someone you trust to be supportive, or recommit to trying again now/later/at a time with less other stressors - you can always move forward again.
Two steps forward and one step back is still one step forward - keep going in that direction however fast or slow is required to keep going toward making your Homes nicer places to live.
The point is to try, not to succeed
At least at first, when you’re on the steepest part of the learning curve, expect a level of failure. You are not likely to achieve your goal or change overnight (unless you’ve set yourself a task to change something small and relatively permanent - like buying and setting up an air purification unit). Any long-term goals need a process.
The point of trying is to allow you to make progress. Part of making progress is finding out where your shortcomings already exist and where you need support to keep going.
Though she is referring to literal writing, I like this sentiment from Jodi Picoult, because I think it’s highly applicable to life as well. You’re not going to do well everyday or every time you try to make a change, but it gives you more information about how to try again than you would have had if you hadn’t tried at all.
Mistakes are proof you are trying, but they're also not the end of the world. Take them in stride. I like to think of them as data points.
Change doesn’t usually happen all at once, it’s incremental. You’re in a period of time in which you will learn, adjust, rest, regroup and improve. Let’s pop that “g” word in here again, because it’s also a big part of the process - “grace”. Making mistakes and giving grace go hand-in-hand. It’s cliche and it’s common, but I like the imagery of getting up and dusting yourself off.
Getting back up is required first - you can’t knock all the dust off of yourself after falling down if you stay down in the dust - that’s futile. Acknowledge that you fell off the horse and get up.
Then dust it off - maybe it takes just a few little brushes at your britches to get things sorted, maybe it takes a lot of brushing to get there, maybe you need someone to help you get some of it off, maybe you’re too tired to dust today so you decide you’ll do it tomorrow. But you can do it - it’s just dust and dust is proof you’re trying to ride that horse.
Basically, don't give up, even if things are going to plan
Personal growth is important on a lot of levels, important enough to persevere when it doesn’t seem like it’s going well. Because it’s so much more than just making this one improvement to your Homes - you’ll teach yourself that you’re able to make change to your well being or to your self-acceptance or to your surroundings. And it will make you more aware of your capabilities and make the next goal easier to conquer.
Some people have been saying that cold showers help with developing resilience, but I’ll pass on that one… Instead, I’ll choose the right changes for me and work toward them, even if sometimes I let myself down.
The more you practice adapting and choosing habits that support the person you want to be, the well being you want to embrace and the world you want to live in, the more you’ll be ready for the next challenge. Because ultimately, you’re cultivating accountability and responsibility to yourself, while balancing it with some self-compassion - and that is the perfect space to make change.
Even just acknowledging that you want to make your Homes nicer is a step, then making a plan is a step, and then working through the plan will be many steps. Occasionally one of those steps may be backwards, but in metaphorical terms, that’s what makes life a dance. So dance, Darling, dance! (And when you’re tired, rest, but tap your foot to the beat and join again when you can).
With love, Jess
A Thought for Your Thoughts:
Take 2 Minutes - Reflect
Do you feel like you fell off the horse at some point today or this week? That’s ok. Growth is a process. Take one minute to think about what tripped you up and take the other minute to think about all the progress you have made. Reflecting on the cause might help you spot it in future, and appreciating yourself will help you give grace and allow you to move forward again.
Take 5 Minutes - Take Action
Failure, or perceived failure, can make us shy. Shy to share with our friends/supporters that things aren’t going to plan. Shy to try again knowing that we may get the same result. Shy to embrace that we may not have been as far along as we originally thought.
Take 5 minutes to be bold. Boldly text a friend/supporter about what happened - be honest and ask for what you need (encouragement, accountability, just being able to say it out loud). Take 5 minutes to commit to trying again regardless of the outcome - reframe the experience - if all you have to do is try again to succeed (instead of achieving a particular outcome), you’ll be further ahead than you are right now. Boldly accept your present, acknowledge that you aren’t where you want to be and that your goals are worth pursuing because you’re on your way.
Take Some Time - Book Recommendation
Recommended reading for more on dealing with failure, especially if what is tripping you up is being a perfectionist, is from Sam Bennett. Her book “Start Right Where You Are: How Little Changes Can Make a Big Difference for Overwhelmed Procrastinators, Frustrated Overachievers, and Recovering Perfectionists” is full of ideas on how to be present in where you are in your journey and finding practical ways to keep moving forward. Get a copy here (affiliate link)
Note: “A thought for your thoughts” is going to be a section added to the end of each blog to give you some ideas on how to bring these words/thoughts to life for yourself. You know yourself better than anyone, so not every suggestion will be for you - that’s ok, it might give you some inspiration though, or help you to try something new.
And because we all have different time pressures, I’ll try to give you something that will take 2 minutes, 5 minutes or some more time. Everyone has two minutes to give a little action and intention to improving their Three Homes. You probably will have five minutes most days too. And, for a deeper dive, I’ll give some additional resources, like a book recommendation or activity that will allow you to dedicate yourself to moving forward, if you are so inspired.
(Also, the title of the section is fun nod to one of my favorite shows - Parks & Rec)