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Have you fallen off the New Year wagon yet?

Have you broken your gym streak?

Dry January suddenly got damp?

Blown the diet?

Then let me be the first to congratulate you.

Seriously. Well done. You tried something out, then you discovered something that stops it from working out. You are a pioneer of resolutions, an experimental scientist of life itself. Good job!

I love it when my coaching clients have a "wobble". When something gets too hard, or they find they can't meet a goal they expected they could handle. It suddenly makes my job so much easier.

It's a fabulous learning opportunity, there's no shame in that.

Failure, is the process of growth revealing itself. It's great to set ourselves goals that we know we can reach. Most of the goals we set are based on the agreement between myself and the client that we believe they are going to achieve it with 90% certainty. I do that because achieving feels good, and it keeps the rock rolling as they nail more and more goals, week on week.

But when it suddenly stops, it's like a flare going up saying "CHECK THIS OUT, THIS IS WHERE THE PROBLEM IS" and I know that once we get that roadblock out of the way, we are going to see amazing results.

Learning to embrace failure

When I hear that someone has a "blip" that they aren't happy about, I get curious. What happened? What happened just before that happened? What else was going on? What didn't we realise on the day the plan seemed like such a good idea? Why wasn't it as easy as we expected?

Most of us aren't programmed to think like that. We have usually been taught that it's bad, embarrassing or weak to fail. But that's the kind of thinking that stops us from starting out to do new and awesome things.

If we never fail, we aren't being challenged, we aren't growing. Realising you have failed and sitting down to work out why, or asking someone else for support  can be really uncomfortable. It's really useful though, and it's a skill that anyone wishing to excel in anything needs to get the hang of.

What does it mean to not fail?

Who doesn't fail once in a while? Perfect people? People who have got it all together? Those aren't real people folks! And if they were, would you really want to be one? If you were already able to achieve your goal, without any effort, what would that be like?

Often when we set ourselves challenges, it's all or nothing, it assumes that if we are AMAZING we can do it, and if we can't do it, then we suck. The point of goal setting shouldn't be to test yourself like this, it should be to give structure to your process of improvement.

OK, let's have a tangent. I'm a bit of a gamer, and over the holiday I decided to switch myself off for a bit and go back to playing The Sims, a game which I love, but haven't touched for a couple of years because you can't sit there building a pretend house for pretend people when you're own house needs sorting!

Anyhow, I'm a great Sims player. Like epic. My Sims are always happy and accomplished, the kids get top grades, the adults have fulfilling work and still manage to eat and have hobbies and usually don't set fire to themselves (hey, maybe this is how I got to be such a great coach ;) ) All Sims have a lifetime objective, like something that makes them a bit different that they work towards throughout their life - like being at the top of their career, or being amazing musicians, or being friends with 20 cats. Getting to these objectives takes careful management, they need to do their life stuff and family stuff and somehow fit their hopes and dreams in there.

Once they get there it's pretty brilliant, for about a minute. Then that Sim is suddenly really boring to play. Their major hobby no longer has a purpose, their life and family was ticking along just fine anyway. They could take up something new, but basically as a player you kind of sideline them and wait for them to die.

So my question for you is this. Are you ready to be the perfect, accomplished person, sitting in a rocking chair waiting to shake hands with the Grim Reaper?

A growth mindset means being ready to forgive yourself

What I'm trying to say, is that it's OK, actually a really good thing, to not have it all in the bag. Being the person who could already do the thing would be super dull. It's a better thing to be able to admit it, accept it and look for small ways to get better in the future.

While admitting that there are things you aren't so great at can be hard, it opens up the opportunity to get better at something, a drive to do new things, or do old things better, to achieve mastery, or at least to move closer to it. It makes life interesting and dynamic. 

The only time failing really means stagnating or being "back at square one", is when we don't reflect and learn from the process.

So what can you do when you break your resolution?

Firstly, don't panic. Unless your resolution was something like "don't kill anyone this year" (in which case, we might need to take a harder look at your life choices) it's not really a big deal.

Second, take a deep breath and look back at the situation. What happened? Maybe talking it through with a friend would help. Was it preparation? Did you find yourself somehow in a situation where you weren't equipped to follow through on your expectations? How could you avoid that happening again? Remember, "discipline" is actually about making the "right" choice easy. What can  you do to grease the wheels?

All or nothing resolutions are my bugbear. "I will/will not do X for X amount of time". I dislike this because it is so unforgiving, and so prone to "screw it, it's over" syndrome.

It's not just New Year's resolutions that work like this. Diets that say you will eat a certain way until you hit a target weight - you either make it and then stop (and regain) or slip up and give up because it's "over". 

Instead, try to take it a day at a time. Maybe today was too tough a day to deal with implementing a new change. That's OK, you can try tomorrow. The only way you can fail, is to stop working at it, forever.

Lastly, enjoy the process. Have fun with the plasticity of your life. Have fun growing and learning. Keep being curious.


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