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Have a new year’s resolution? Go ahead and fail

Image Source: Flickr user missmoney

It’s well into January now. How are your New Year’s resolutions standing up? Have you failed yet? If you have, don’t fret because there is hope: Hope from failure itself.

A failed resolution, a missed goal or a life-regression instead a of life-progression all contain the little elements of how and why the misstep occurred and therefore, by default, also contain the baby steps on how to regroup and build forward momentum anew. You may have already come across a concept like this or perhaps this is an entirely new thought, either way, it has unorthodox merit and may help you find the success you’ve been aiming for.

If you think about pretty much every learned activity in our lives, the way we get from A to Z is through learning process. We observe, we attempt, we flop and then we try again. Yes, some of the things we fail at we abandon, fleeing like a thief in the night. But for the rest of the zillion things we have learned, the try-try-again learning process worked like a charm.

An obvious example is riding a bike. How horribly difficult was it to learn a two-wheeler? Chances are, you can’t really recall, knowing only conceptually that you tried and failed until finally succeeding. This is an example of how through failure and repetition, an ability can be learned and wind up becoming a deeply integrated part of you.

You might dismiss this example as too basic or too obvious to be of much worth, but I don’t think you should. At the heart of it, the simplicity of “It’s like learning to ride a bike” kind of reads like an ancient wisdom.

For example, take the experience of learning to ride a bike and apply it to any past situation where you learned or developed an ability, or as in what we’re discussing here, apply it to a situation you’ve failed at. In doing so, you can overlay the experience like a map. Almost everything we know how to do as adults came from a similar process. We finished our schooling; landed jobs; wound up married. We learned to cook for ourselves and our families; how to drive automobiles; book trips and travel to far-off places. Some of us have even gotten good at things like building houses, training pets or even refurbishing coffee tables to make them look brand new. Everyone has unlimited examples built right into their own lives and each example is living proof that one of the best things we can do to achieve our goals, is to try and fail, because nobody first built a house or trained a pet without making a few mistakes. And when mistakes and failure happen, just pick ourselves up, take a look at where we erred and try again.

It’s funny because it seems that most of us neglect to do this with our deep, personal resolutions. Times like the New Year become the start of an epic battle – a slaying of the dragon. We might resolve to lose ten pounds and when we only drop two or three, not only do we fall off the wagon but we land with an atomic thud, saying “Another year, another failed resolution.” But if we did that in every situation throughout our entire lives, we would have never have learned to “ride that bike.”

So it seems like approaching goals and resolutions with the knowledge that hiccups will occur but that recognizing and learning from them is key, is in keeping with how we learn as human beings. It’s a natural way that we function. In my own experience, I can say that this is true. In the last five years, I lost 40 lbs and went from being an over-eater, anti-exerciser to a person that is very aware of the nutritional value of food, as well as someone who actually enjoys making time to exercise. The amazing thing – what I’m very thankful for – is that sometime early on, I had the realization that failing at a goal was just a temporary stop. A point, in time, where I could reflect upon what happened and the best way to handle the failure. This turned my missteps into temporary rest stops along the road of life.

Through the years, as I regrouped again and again, and as months turned into years, I had another big breakthrough: Yes, it’s great to have success and attain a goal, but once that goal is reached, a new horizon almost always opens up, inviting one to keep going. If there’s one universalism I now hold to be true, it’s the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”

So set your goals, make your resolutions and don’t worry about failure. Just promise yourself to take a look at the failure and learn from it. Doing this will help ensure that steps are always being made in the direction you want to go.

Best of luck, enjoy the journey and Happy 2014!

Having lived on both coasts and smack-dab in the middle of the prairies, Mark believes himself to be quite the well-rounded Canadian. That being said, he sure does struggle with appropriate regional diction. Remind him again: Is it pronounced scallop or skahllop?

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