If you are like millions of Americans, you are entering into a bleak time of the year: the holidays are over, credit cards statements from last months overspending are rolling in, insurance deductibles have reset for the new year, and it’s 4 months until the next national holiday. These are the months where life can begin to feel like a grind. On top of those things, many of us have failed to keep our New Years resolutions. We meant well. We entered the new year with a real sense of optimism and we really planned on making those changes. We might even have done well for the first week or two but then something came up. The kids got sick. We got the flu. We had an unexpected emergency. These things can throw our best made plans off track. Maybe for you it’s even worse. You’ve been through this so many times and have had so many unkept resolutions that you don’t even bother with them anymore. Why bother when you know you won’t be able to keep them? All these things can build up and led us to a sense of resignation. We feel trapped, or even worse, hopeless. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Years ago, as a new minister, my overseeing bishop gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever received. I had just come through a hard time where seemingly every plan had failed and nothing was working out like I had expected. He advised me that success shouldn’t be measured in terms of perfection but in terms of progress. Seldom do our futures play out as we envisioned; this means that when ‘life happens’ and we don’t reach that goal we set for ourselves we can feel like a failure. Often this results in our being more reluctant to set future goals because we fear that feeling of failure. When we get in this mindset we can’t recognize the progress we made since we are only focussed on how short we came of our goal. My bishop encouraged me to embrace failure. His advice was that as long as you were moving forward, ‘failure’ was still progress. He stated, “If you are moving and you fall, at least your momentum will carry you forward.”
So maybe you missed the mark on your resolutions for the year already. Maybe you didn’t keep up those new positive behaviors you started. Maybe you have already slipped back into your old ways. Rather than viewing yourself as a failure because you didn’t reach the ideal you can assess how much progress you did make. Ask yourself: What factors led to me not reaching my goal? What could I have done differently? What positive results have I seen? How do I increase those positive results next time? Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Sure, you didn’t reach the goal you had intended, but look at how far you are from where you started. Maybe you didn’t lose the weight you wanted to, but you started exercising more. You didn’t quit that bad habit, but you made it how many days without it controlling you. These steps may feel small, but they are moving in the right direction. Rather than give up and stop trying because you didn’t achieve your goal, simply reset, identify your progress, and keep trying. Just imagine if you kept doing that for the entire year how much farther you’d be next January than if you simply gave up and took the “try it again next year” approach. By embracing a failing forward mentality you can begin to transform the rest of your life one little step at a time.