What is failure? The act of not receiving the outcome expected? Or the attitude of deeming a cause unredeemable?
At the start of this year, I made four resolutions, and of the four, I’ve only managed to keep up with (and I’m being generous here), two. The ‘reduce waste’ goal has been a bit of a challenge, particularly because we moved into our first home in February and that came with a lot of complications for my goals. I did however, work really hard on it, and for the few weeks I kept at it, was effectively able to reduce the waste going out of my home by half. Guess what the other half largely was? Food scraps. Peels, seeds, stalks and stems, leaves and root – discards from a plant based kitchen that promptly went into a make-shift compost tub that now remains neglected and dried up, all because it was a little too icky for me to dig through a pile of rotting scraps. I failed.But what defines failure? Is it the act of not accomplishing one’s goals, or simply the attitude of not wanting to try anymore?
To quote an unknown author, ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’. But sanity is sometimes overrated, and a touch of insanity is what separates the dreamers and the doers. If your heart is truly set on a goal, nothing, not even failure should keep you away from it. But don’t go on making the same mistakes – that’s just stupid!
Here are some things that help me whenever I find myself at a roadblock:
1. Look back.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” —Thomas Edison.
But after each of those times, if Edison went back and did the exact same thing, chances are, he’d still be trying to make the light bulb work. Always assess the situation to track things that went right/wrong. You have to know where you’ve been to be sure not to waste time going back there again.
I now know, that digging through a pile of rotting waste is never going to be my cup of tea. I won’t keep at something that fundamentally irks me.
2. Step aside.
Squeeze in a mandated time-out for yourself. Whenever I am stuck at a problem, and feel like I’ve tried everything possible yet, nothing works, I step out of my desk/work area. Do something else. Think about everything but the problem. Clear your head. Go out and pull some weeds. Take a short walk. Watch a movie. When I come back, the solution I’ve been missing out on dawns on me almost immediately. When your brain is stuck at a problem repetitively, it helps to give it a new perspective for it to reboot and clear it’s ‘cache’.
I took a break from reducing waste, and these past few months, while easier, have been a moral hell for me, as I took out bags after bags of trash, which I KNOW I could have turned into ‘black gold’ for the garden. It strengthened my resolve to restart my initial efforts, albeit on a slightly different route.
3. Look ahead.
Get yourself a game plan. What’s next? You know what you’ve done so far, that you shouldn’t do again. Give yourself one small (attainable) task to make getting back into the game a little easier. Find your rhythm, and charge on!
I bought myself a tumble composter. It spins, aerating the compost pile without me having to do anything besides turn it via a handle every other day.
4. Get Help!
No man is an island, and you cannot move a mountain alone. When things look bleak, ask for help. I am usually a firm believer in ‘the journey is more important than the destination’ But when it comes to achieving goals, end results matter. Ask for help. Even talking about it to a friend/colleague helps. Vocalizing issues opens up other avenues of problem-solving mechanisms in the brain. Besides, there’s an unspoken strength of character in recognizing misgivings, knowing that the task at hand is larger than yourself.
5. Repeat. Again.
Every boulder needs more than a few blows of the hammer before it starts to crack. Rinse and repeat until your problems come crashing down. Let the struggle change you for the better, and if faced with a truly impossible task, be amenable to making more realistic changes to your goals. Be like water: when its path is blocked, it finds another way.
Realistically, I know that I won’t be able to keep up with all of my goals for the year – summer is almost over, and there’s no way I can squeeze in 12 hikes before winter sets and it’s too cold to go out. But my heart is set on at least reducing my waste and I will restart it back up again in a few weeks. Goals that I cannot keep up with, will be moved on to the next year. Because, I am driven by a higher purpose that transcends timelines and deadlines; and that, is what makes a difference.
“Opportunity often comes disguised in the form of misfortune, or temporary defeat.” – Napoleon Hill