December 23, 2018

Failures (and Insights) from 2018

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

2018 was a decent year for me. Many good things happened, and I enjoyed some success. Still, as the year winds down, I find myself reflecting on things I didn’t accomplish or didn’t do well. It seems I share the human tendency to focus on the negative while the positive is waving frantically, trying to get my attention.

I’ve used the word failure in my title because I don’t think it’s a bad word, and I’ve actually learned more through failing than I have through succeeding. In many instances, I failed in 2018, in both big and small ways. Here are a few areas where I didn’t exactly rise to the occasion and some thoughts around them.

Weight –  2018 has the dubious distinction of being the year I topped out at my heaviest weight ever (pregnancies included). Over the course of the year, I gained sixteen pounds. To keep things in perspective, I was lean to start so I’m not really overweight, but if I don’t reverse the trend, I will be.

Many of my clothes don’t fit and I’m wearing stretchy fabrics more often.

Part of me wants to sell out and buy bigger clothes. The other part wants to fit into my existing wardrobe. The irony is that I love the fact that the bones in my chest area don’t stick out anymore. However, I don’t like that my hips and thighs have gotten bigger and that I have a couple of small belly rolls.

Why the excess pounds? Too many calories, sporadic exercise and stress. The good news is that all of these are within my control. I need to focus more on healthy eating and regular exercise. I also need to minimize stress, and when that’s not possible, I need to change my perception of whatever situation is causing me stress.

The good news is that by taking control, I’ve already managed to lose a few pounds. I really don’t want to splurge on a whole new wardrobe so I’m motivated to get back to my normal weight. (Note: Thanks to some work I’ve done related to body image, I fully realize that my weight does NOT define my worth.)

Work – This past year I spent too much time working. The funny thing is that I’ve never considered myself career driven. I’ve never actually said, “I want to climb the career ladder,” and neither money nor power are high on my list of drivers.

I have a good job, and I’m grateful for that. Is it my passion and the reason I get out of bed every morning? No, but I don’t expect it to be. Actually, I enjoy the people I work with more than I enjoy the work itself. Still, I have no intention of giving it up. It affords me a comfortable lifestyle.

That said, I need time to do things I AM passionate about, particularly reading and writing. That’s where I ran into trouble this year. I worked too many evenings and weekends. Not only did this prove to be bad for me, I realize it set a bad example for other people. I lost out on doing things I love, and I eventually paid the price.

Valuable lessons can be learned in situations like this. I decided to limit the hours I work. I’m in management, so I expect to work a few additional hours every week, but that means a FEW. So I planned specifically how many extra hours I would work (and when), and HOW I would work. I’m happy to say that most evenings and all of my weekends are now free. Will this affect my career progression? Quite likely, but that doesn’t bother me because I’m happy where I am.

Exercise – This was definitely the year of sporadic exercise. My amazing personal trainer was with me every step of the way, doing her best to keep me motivated and on track, particularly when I was feeling, and behaving, like a sloth. I was also privileged to attend fitness classes taught by fantastic instructors.

Yet, I didn’t keep up my end of the bargain. I was busy, tired, lazy, and any other excuse you can come up with.

Then, very recently, during a writing exercise, it struck me. I finally realized why I REALLY wasn’t exercising consistently: I wasn’t having enough FUN! This is my fault. I had developed a mindset where I was treating exercise like another job, something I HAD to do. I know exercise isn’t all about fun, but I realized the more I can approach it from that perspective, the more I’m liable to stick with it.

That’s what led me to try Groove just over a week ago. Basically, it’s fitness that revolves around dance with no dance skills required. I had a BLAST! There was music, movement, laughter, and pure abandon. And although I followed the instructor’s lead, I could do what I wanted, what my body wanted.

I also realized that to be more consistent at the gym, and to work harder in my personal training sessions, I have to dial up the music and be a bit silly. Lifting weights doesn’t excite me much – rigid programs don’t either. That’s why I need to spice things up with a bit of twist, shout and general goofiness.

Memoir – My most fulfilling experience of 2018 was participating in two memoir writing workshops with Kathleen Hamilton. Despite my work schedule, I didn’t miss a session. That’s how important it was to me.

One of my writing goals was to have the first draft of a full-length memoir completed by the end of the year. I failed. I like to blame my work-life balance situation, and there’s no doubt that played a role; however, the biggest stick in my wheel was me. I just didn’t make the time.

There was success, however. I completed three stories that were published in a stunning  collection of women’s memoir called Deep Water Pearls. Buoyed by this achievement, I’ll be buckling down in the New Year and pounding the keyboard. My first draft awaits!

This blog post is all about me, but my hope is that something I’ve shared might ring true for you, that you might recognize bits and pieces of yourself. If you’ve had some less than desirable results in 2018, see what you can learn from that. Think about how you can change things up to get on track in a way that works for you. Reflect on what you did accomplish however small. You are capable of doing some great things.

As 2018 comes to a close, I realize that even though I may not have done everything I wanted, and even though I didn’t measure up in some regards, I also accomplished a number of things. I bet you have as well. Now is the time to take credit where credit is due, and continue forth with resolve into 2019.

Let the New Year begin!