Fail Better

Jeanne's third journal entry on her 8 Week Challenge fitness journey. 

June 7, 2016

A friend of mine recently asked me how the fitness challenge was going. I was about to respond with "Not very well" before I stopped myself. Was that true? It's been another week of doing less than I planned, but there have been a few notable accomplishments. For one thing, I bicycled to an appointment in Belltown, a trip that took me an hour and 15 minutes and included an embarrassing spill on the sidewalk right in front of an ice cream store on Pike and 2nd Avenue.

"Are you okay?" the woman at the counter called out.

I looked up, saw where the voice was coming from, and lay back down on the pavement.

"I need ice cream," I called out weakly.


"Come on in," she responded, happy to provide the band-aid.

Despite my skinned knee, this bike ride was a big deal for me. It was hard and I was proud of myself for doing it. So why didn't I answer my friend's question with news of my bike ride? Why is it so hard to recognize and celebrate achievements?

Because it didn’t seem like enough. It wasn't the perfect week I had envisioned complete with daily classes and workouts and readily apparent progress of my fitness goals. It may have been good, but it wasn't good ENOUGH, and so my week felt like failure.

"Each achievement is diminished by being compared with the imagined ideal" wrote Neil Fiore in The Now Habit. When only A's are acceptable, a B is the same as an F.

Janine Driver, author of You Say More Than You Think, describes a study where pottery students working on a project were divided into two groups. One group was told they could fail as many times as they wanted; the other group was told they had one chance to make a perfect pot. The results: the students given permission to fail ended up with nearly flawless pots. In her words, “they failed their way to success.” 

I love this idea: feel free to fail. Get better—fail better. It's an invitation to get creative and explore the possibilities. And the action will move you towards your goal. After all, if I'm allowed to fail any number of times, I might as well experiment with different options and see what happens. So that's what I started doing last night. Exploring ways to improve my fitness.

This morning I made it to the core strengthening class and felt great afterwards. (If only it felt so good an hour before the class—what terrific motivation that would be!)  But the reality is, I had been planning, unsuccessfully, to attend a number of classes over the last week. What was different about this morning?  I'm not completely sure, but I did set my alarm an hour earlier. And perhaps more importantly, I realized that if I didn't go to the class, I was going to need to learn something from the effort. Otherwise, how can I celebrate my failures as well as my successes? There has to be a reason something does or doesn't go as planned. Maybe there just wasn't a good enough reason not to go. So I went.  How's that for a kicker? 

I will be curious to see how the rest of the week goes.