“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” – Henry Ford
I’ve got a note on the wall in the shower (if you haven’t discovered Aqua Notes, you’re missing out – they will change your life) that reads:
If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you’ll know that September was not my month for writerly achievements. It was, in fact, the month I wanted to take a sledgehammer to my laptop, delete all my files from the cloud, and otherwise burn it all down. Which isn’t really my style, generally speaking. Luckily, the phase passed after a few days of self-pity. Then it was time to begin again. To start over. To redefine the way I approached the things that were draining me.
But where? What should I do differently to ensure I didn’t end up back at the nuclear option?
The act of writing the note was my start.
It was an exhortation to myself to get moving. It was a new set of goals, and maybe most importantly, it was a reminder to break my goals down into small, achievable pieces.
The idea of setting achievable goals in order to create a cycle of successes isn’t a new one. In fact, it might be THE lesson life has been attempting to teach me in 2019. As usual, though, I’m a slow learner. Despite having encountered this notion in several formats this year, I keep setting goals that lead to frustration. I couldn’t figure out how to reconceptualize the goal-setting process.
Then I had one of those fortuitous visits with a couple I love dearly who have recently achieved dramatic, healthy weight loss. I’m not exaggerating when I say that they’ve, together, lost as much as I weigh. It’s amazing. And so inspiring. Especially for someone who has stubbornly hung on to the last 10 pounds of baby weight accumulated over six years ago. I asked my friends how they did it, expecting guidance on apps used, food systems implemented, etc. My mind was blown by the simplicity of my friend’s response. She said that she had never had much success trying to lose 10 pounds or 20 pounds, so she decided to lose ONE pound. And then she did it again. And again. And again. It was a success she repeated so often that it became habit.
THIS is the lesson the universe has been trying to teach me! One pound. I can lose one pound. Even if it is one pound of die-hard, stick to your hips baby weight. I can totally do one.
And that realization got me thinking about how to break down my other goals. As someone with a long-time back injury, I know the importance of staying fit and stretching regularly. Yet over the last couple of years, my stretching practice has shifted from several times a week, to once or twice a week, to ad hoc as I can make it to a yoga class. Unsurprisingly, my back’s been feeling it. And though I KNOW that going to more yoga or pilates classes, or even doing the exercises at home on my own time, will help, I haven’t been good about carving that time out regularly. So I thought: what if my goal is just to do one good back stretch every day? I can do one, right?
Turns out, I can. Some days. And when I make the time for one, I usually end up doing a few more, because once I start, it just feels so good.
So I should be able to do the same with writing, right? One page a day sounded totally reasonable when I was standing in the midst of the timelessness of my shower. Only it turned out that making time for just one page was too much for my crazed brain to handle right away. I tried a couple of times, failed, and then found myself cooking up other things to do instead. My brain would wander to my to-do list instead of focusing on the writing that I was supposed to be doing. I was right back in the “I’m doing this because I have to, not because I want to right now” spot, and it didn’t feel like the right way forward. So I revised. I downgraded. What if I just wrote one line? What one line would I contribute every day? Would they go together? Would they tell a story? Would they be deep thoughts? The questions themselves were intriguing and helped motivate me to give it a try.
So I did for a few days. It felt good. Quirky and helpful and like a step in the right direction.
Then I got caught up in the weekend and I forgot completely. It was mid-way through the next week before I remembered my intention to write one line. Or do one stretch. Or work toward that single pound.
But the wonderful thing about beginning is that you can always begin again. With a project. With an intention. With a friend. “If at first you don’t succeed,” and all that. Turns out there’s a lot of truth packed into that old adage. And notice the sages didn’t tie it to the start of a new year, a new month, a new week, or even a new day. We can begin again ANY TIME.
Right now, if you want. GO ahead. What’s stopping you?
I’m still early into this process, and it is not smooth. I remember to do some of the things on the list some days. Others I nail all three and feel very virtuous. But when I miss them all, I’ve already told myself it’s okay.
I’ll begin again.
P.S. If you want to join me writing one line a day, please feel free to share in the comments on the blog or on our Facebook page. I’m keeping mine in a Word doc, but there are also some awesome journals out there for those of you who like to keep it longhand.
I love all of this. One year, my word for the year was “begin.” And yes, the following year it was “begin again.” Thanks, Thea, for reminding us that fresh starts are possible and for giving us some great ideas on how to make that happen!