A few months ago a buddy of mine, Adam Gilbert over at mybodytutor.com made a really profound point in one of his emails. He simply stated “why even try if I know that I can’t be perfect?”
This statement does not just apply to fitness, nutrition, or a healthful lifestyle, but it applies to all areas of one’s life. If I clearly know that I’m a flawed human, and will never fully meet my goals when it comes to health, happiness, and money. Why even try since I know full well that I will look failure in the eye every step of the way? And why even try If I know that I will continually disappoint myself and possibly even disappoint others?
For those that know me well enough you know that I struggle in traffic. I drive approx two hours each day in San Diego traffic for a commute that should only really take 30 minutes. One of my primary negative emotions is anger associated with the mass of cars on the road, and anger associated with the inconsiderate and dangerous driving style of many of the commuters.
A few years ago the pain became so great that I decided I need to make a change.
The next day I simply decided I would not get angry on the road. I decide that if someone cuts me off or acts rudely I would simply put on the breaks and let them drive by. I was able to stay calm the first day and even much of the first week.
But by the next week, things were not going so good. I would get that all to familiar tingle in my spine when someone cut in front of me and then slammed on the breaks. My skin would start to flush and muscles tighten when someone who clearly should not be in the HOV lane zoomed past me. Additionally, I would start to get angry when I watched people driving aggressively dangerous on the freeway.
My goal lasted less than a week and I was already a failure. At this point, I had a critical decision to make. I could renew my efforts and recommit to the goal, knowing that more failure would come. Or I could simply walk away from the goal knowing first hand that I can never achieve my high standards.
I decided to press on. I realized that this game of staying calm while driving in traffic was not an all or nothing game. Rather, I had made real progress last week and could build on that progress for the weeks and months to come.
While I did decide to press on with my goal, it did require that I learn two additional skills; the skill of self-forgiveness, and the skill of being comfortable with failure.
The skills of self-forgiveness and being comfortable with failure are critical skills that do not get discussed at all in today’s society. It is obvious why no one wants to talk about failure; it is much more exciting to talk about setting goals, achieving greatness, and leading others. However, achieving greatness comes with failures, lots of failures. Lots and lots and lots of failures. If you laid all my failures end to end it would look pretty bad. Failed to get into college, failed at my 1st choice career, failed with my 2nd and 3rd houses, failed with an import business, failed screening for EOD Command, and the list goes on.
How does an individual then deal with that failure? Like all skills, it comes with practice. It comes with recognizing your humanity, recognizing your imperfections, and recognizing that even small steps toward your goal are to be celebrated.
Next time you fail, give it a try! Maybe you failed by missing a workout, or 10 workouts, maybe you failed by eating an entire bag of chips in on sitting while binge watching Netflix, or maybe you failed by not living up to your standards.
That’s ok. Intentionally practice taking a deep breath, acknowledging the failure, forgiving yourself for it, and making a decision to move on.