It’s the New Year, and with every resolution and goal being set is the implication of a shortcoming in the previous year: “Exercise more [because I was a lazy bum this year];” and “Save more money [because I blew every spare cent this year.]” I think that’s part of why New Year’s resolutions can go from motivating to demoralizing so quickly.
If your resolution starts and ends with “I suck. I have to be better,” you’re not going to get very far.
Failure doesn’t have to be a shameful secret that you try to plaster over with a righteous and self-punishing resolution, though. We all fall short.
Failure is human nature, and it’s actually a good thing.
You’ll have reacted to that previous statement one of two ways: Either, “Duh. ‘To err is human.'” Or, “That’s bullshit. Mistakes are the worst.”
Until very recently, I fell into the second category. I wore my perfectionism like a badge of honor and a hair shirt. I held myself to impossible standards and was absolutely brutal to myself when I couldn’t meet them.
This past year, though, I realized this wasn’t working for me.
The fear of failure was like a very short leash I had put myself on: The only way to not fall short was to not climb very high or reach very far. The only thing you get in pursuit of perfection is paralysis. In 2018, I started to do the work of unclipping myself from that leash.
It took less time than I could have imagined for failure to stop being utterly terrifying. I won’t get into all the self-help stuff that got me here, because that isn’t the point of this post (though, guess what: therapy is amazing and we all deserve to take care of our mental health).
This year was all about learning from what hasn’t worked for me in the past , what has, and why. And this is my point, and the purpose of this post:
If you’re going to rock 2019, you have to let go of any shame you might feel about where you feel you fell short in 2018 so that you can look at those things full in the face and understand the reason behind them. This applies to life and to your work.
“Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.”
The middle school near my house has had this posted on its sign outside for months, and every time I drive past it, it helps to affirm my mental recalibration that failure can be a gift. I am smarter, more efficient, more empathetic and kinder because of past failures.
As you’re planning 2019, don’t skip over the step of taking time to understand what worked and what didn’t this past year so you can parse out why. This is the very first exercise I introduce in my Plan Your Best Year worksheet, which you can get for free just for taking a quick survey to help me plan future content and resources.
Spend a few minutes letting me know what’s keeping you up at night, and with a little self-reflection and realistic goal-setting, you can sleep a little easier in 2019.