3 Times It's Okay to Fail

Failure. The other f-word I don't like.

It doesn't feel good, can be super awkward, and usually leaves you wanting to just lie in the road. Right? Aside from being super humbling, failure can actually be good for you and your goals.

Wait! Don't go!

Failing at something- no matter how epic or small the fail-scale- can be huge for personal growth. If you let it, failure can actually spur creativity because it forces you to come up with a different approach to solving the problem at hand. Failure can give you the opportunity to try something new- the opportunity you didn't know you needed.

Of course, it's what happens after the failure that is really cool. When I say cool, I really mean tough, gritty, not Instagram worthy and plain ol' hard work. Because, yes, failure provides the opportunity at trying something again, but you have to do the work. It's the proverbial picking-yourself-up after failing that shows your tenacity. There are many ways to solve the problem in front of you, just remind yourself that through failing, you've eliminated a possible solution and move on.

With that, there are 3 times when it's okay to fail. Not just okay, actually, but great! In these instances, failing is a natural step in the growth and development process and can teach you a lot about how far you can go.

3 Times It's Okay to Fail

  1. When you try something brand new.
    Learning a new hobby, developing a new skill or trying out a new language gives us ample opportunities to fail. Why wouldn't it? It's a brand new experience for us! As frustrating as it is to be a beginner at any stage of our lives, eventually- through trial and error- we learn what works and what doesn't. When I was learning to clip my shoes into my pedals, I fell over 99% of the time... still clipped in to my bike. I looked kind of like a turtle on it's back... in lycra. Fail. But I eventually tried using my OTHER foot to un-clip and voila! I didn't fall over (as much, anymore). Success.
  2. Working out at the gym.
    Muscle failure. It hurts so good because your muscles are working to their full ability. Once you work them to this threshold, they let you know they're done and can do no more. This is when the magic happens and you build strength. I know this from working with coaches and trainers for years and years, and won't get into the science of it here. **Note this doesn't mean collapsing on the treadmill because you're not listening to your body. It does mean getting the muscle group your working on to experience muscle failure by targeting it with controlled exercises. 
  3. Making a "big ask."
    I saved this one for last because it scares me the most. Yesterday I reached out and asked for something I really want, because if I can't do this myself, why should I encourage you to do it? I lost nothing by asking, and even though it was not 100% the answer I wanted, I'm confident. My husband and I knew a woman who was the epitome of this- she got friends into sold-out shows, talked with fascinating people, had these really incredible experiences all because she made "big asks" all the time.

Think about this the next time you fail. If you failed and it didn't bother you, ask yourself why you tried whatever it was. Were you just checking off an item on your "should-be-a-goal" list? I've found that when you fail, you're provided with a little bit of clarity about what you really want. 

Want more? Here's JK Rowling's TED Talk about failure: The Fringe Benefits of Failure. Take 20 minutes this afternoon to watch it- she may give you a new perspective on the topic.


Consider this another argument for the hammock


I love the idea of relaxing in a hammock, even though actually getting into one proves difficult for me sometimes. All that swaying, you know? Once I’m in, though, it’s wonderful— especially with a book, a breeze, and a cool drink within reach. Okay and a puppy in my lap. That's not too much to ask, is it? I can almost hear the wind chimes on the porch... Hold on, what was I saying? Oh yeah, hammocks. Okay, stay with me...

Norman Lear was on Wait Wait ...Don’t Tell Me! a few weeks ago, and he said something about being present that no personal development book and no yoga class has ever said so well. I thought about how quick I am to brainstorm the next project while finalizing details on the one I’m finishing and how that’s just a little rude to the current project. Or I’ll dream about how good it’s going to feel when I jump in the pool as soon as I leave work, completely ignoring the fun and joy of picking up speed on my bike.

Mr. Lear was asked for advice on how to be as happy and successful at 93 years old, as he is. And he said:

Two simple words. Maybe as simple as any two words in the English language: Over and Next. And we don’t pay enough attention to them. When something is over, it is over. And we are on to Next. And if there was to be a hammock in the middle between over and next, that would be what is meant by “living in the moment.”
— Norman Lear

So, in the spirit of Summer— and appreciating exactly where you are today— I think we should all jump (carefully!) into our hammocks. They can be the mental hammock of being in the moment, your actual hammock— don’t forget your lemonade— or both. Wherever you are in your life, in your career, or in your travels, wherever you are between “over” and “next,” take some time to pay attention to that moment.

An argument in favor of Monday.

I like Monday. Friday usually gets all the glory of the work-week, while Saturday and Sunday are in a league of their own. But Monday is like cracking open a new notebook- kind of intimidating, but also waiting for you to set the tone. I've pretty much stopped joining in on the "Ugh Monday's" chorus in the elevators first thing because I do enjoy the fresh start of a week. I do not always enjoy my alarm, but that's a different story.

What I'm realizing more and more about myself is that I love the beginning of things: years, weeks, adventures, projects, books... It's the promise and possibility of great that really gets me going. That's one (of many) reasons I love goal coaching- there is so much freakin' possibility in your goals!

At brunch yesterday, we had a great conversation about planning versus being in the moment. I am a planner. This surprises no one. But I also appreciate living in the moment because you don't want to miss any of this! Okay yes, there are parts I'd love to just block out, but you never know what you can learn in the here-and-now if you're (always) looking to the future! I think there's something there in the planning that speaks to my love of beginnings- the possibility of what can happen.

Which could also be why I tend to get stuck mid-way through projects. I start to realize that the possibility of a goal is waaaay outside my comfort zone, skill level or (expected) time frame. Sometimes this is fine- I realize it was just the novelty of the idea I liked and I scrap the project. Other times I just get discouraged that it's not going as I planned. And that's where living in the moment comes in. There's so much possibility in each and every day that we never give a chance, because we're looking towards what's next. The next event, the next job, the next vacation.

Mondays allow me to do both: plan for the week ahead AND just focus on the day. While I don't think I would want a week full of Mondays, I would love to keep the Monday mindset going- with a lot fewer "ugh's," please.


Just Practice Your Freakin' Violin*

*I originally titled this "On Habits and Happiness," but let's call a spade a spade and just move on.

Habits are the unsung heroes of goals, if you ask me. Want a killer smile? Better develop the habit of consistent flossing. Want to publish a book? Create a habitual routine of writing, drawing, or photographing every day so you can have content for that book. What should I do if I want to play Hedwig's Theme on the violin by Christmas? Yep- practice my freakin' violin. Consistently. 

Unfortunately, this post won't tell you how to create good habits (or how to drop the bad ones.) I'm more interested in your habits- the good, the bad, and the funny. And then I'd like to know if you've developed any habits that have brought you happiness.  

I'm asking because I'm working my way through Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. She wrote The Happiness Project, a book that came into my life one Christmas when I really needed some happiness. So I figured, why not pick up her book on habits while I'm working on creating some strong ones of my own? She does a pretty good job of explaining some of the behavioral science behind habits (forming and maintaining,) and I was intrigued by how good habits correlate with happiness.

If you need me, I'll be working my way through another round of Twinkle Twinkle. As Drake said: started from the bottom, now we're here.

Let's Shift Again, Like We Did Last Summer

Hi Friday! You sure are lookin' good and it's not just the coffee talking.  I hope it's shaping up to be a great day for you guys too!

 I know several people who are either getting their kids ready to start school again, or have already taken those first day of school pictures. It's true that I'm pretty removed from that ritual now, and that my Augusts are pretty calm compared to those I used to spend in the aisles of Target and Office Depot. But I can still feel the shift that happens in August- it's still very much summer just a little quieter. When I think of summer nights in August, they drenched in gold and slow as honey. Do they feel like that for you too?

The to-do lists start to change also. Instead of trips and parties, they shift inward a little. Getting the home ready for the cooler months because... Winter is coming! Maybe you're like me and you've already started planning for Christmas. Just me? Cool. August, to me, is the gentle nudge to get back to work. The evenings are still long enough to sit outside with friends and a cold beverage, but change is definitely in the air.

My friend Nicole does this neat thing of setting small goals each month and reviewing her goals from the previous month. I think this is so great because it's not a check list of tasks, but nuggets that will bring joy and get you a little closer to your big goals. You could say hey, August is half-way over... what gives?! OR you could say- this is great! I still have 2 weeks to prepare for my September small goals. AND if you're feeling wild, you still have time in August. Are there any mini goals you have percolating?

My goals for August and September involve a lot of home-work. We played in our new house all summer and now it's time to slow down and really turn it into a home. We're building beds and getting a dinning room table that fits more than 2! 

Have a wonderful weekend friends. Share an extra smile or two with a stranger.