“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”Thomas Edison
No matter who you are, how personally disciplined you are, how resolved you are or how hard you try, set-backs will happen when you set out to change a habit. The setback may come early on and threaten to knock you off your game or the set-back may come after you’ve been at it for years. It’s a question of when, not if.
Remove the idea of “failure” from your vocabulary and eventually from your mind. Notice that I’m using the word “set-back” here rather than failure. There is a song by Blues Traveler called “Just Wait” that inspired and motivated me from a young age. In the song, John Popper sings: “there’s no such thing as a failure who keeps trying, coasting to the bottom is the only disgrace” and that simple phrase stuck with me through my formative years and helped me work through my natural negative bias. Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle with the idea that failure can be a very real thing. I’ve had some extremely low moments in my life, but even when everything seemed lost, something deep within pushed me forward to not give up and quit. I believe all of us have that drive deep within us to keep going. It’s a primal desire to survive and not quit. I do everything I can to not use the word “failure.” Set-backs give us lessons and yes, sometimes the lesson is this: what I’m trying isn’t worth it to me and I want something else. In my mind, that has a very different feeling than “quitting.” Choosing not to continue gives you more personal sense of agency. Having that sense of agency is important. It gives you the strength to carry on.
Facing a set-back is when the elements of inspiration and motivation become critical. I have my morning routine but sometimes my daughter wakes up earlier than I’ve planned for and interrupts my work out or my meditation. When this happens, I have a choice – well – I have a few choices: I could get angry at her for interrupting my routine, I could give up on my routine and assume it won’t work or I could accept that I’ll lose this one day but trust that I’ll come back tomorrow. Last week, I published posts and videos about establishing habits, if you’ve established a strong habit, it can weather an interruption like this. You can skip one day because you know you’ll be back at it tomorrow. You have to have a long-haul mindset: real change takes time, this is a marathon, not a sprint. That being said, this is also why you can’t skip the easy days. Habit change is tough because part of changing means pushing through the things that have stopped you before. Understanding and expecting that things will be hard along the way helps you be mentally prepared when they do come up.
The going will get tough but that doesn’t have to discourage you. Everyone has setbacks from time to time, they don’t mean you can’t achieve your dreams or that you won’t. It just might mean that things won’t play out exactly as you planned and oftentimes that is an amazing thing.