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Failing On Purpose

I hate New Year’s resolutions. And I’m betting than I’m not alone in my hatred…

I’m a very driven person. I succeed in many areas of life. But I typically do what many of us typically do when the calendar flips—I catalog my shortcomings and vow to do better. I set goals, make action plans, invite accountability… and mostly fail. A few years ago I just abandoned the idea of resolutions altogether, because I got tired of failing.

So, last year, I decided the best way to succeed at my resolutions was to fail on purpose—to set myself up to bail before I even started…

1. I stopped making “mack daddy” goals. 

“I will lose 100 pounds this year.” “I will wash my car every week.” “I will stop frivolous spending.” Too much pressure! Like most of us, my roles in life are demanding. I was adding a giant expectation to the already-too-long list of “big deals” I have to work on. Instead, I aimed for a more general area of life to focus on that might influence the outcome of the areas of life I’d like to see change.  Last year, that general focus was discipline.

2. I stopped inviting regimented accountability.
No more check-ins. No more regular questions to be assessed by friends. Often, those check-ins would fade by mid-Spring, and then I wasn’t just failing at my resolution, I was also failing at assessing how I was failing! So, instead, I simply shared with a few close friends where I was focusing my thoughts and meditations for the year. I admitted that I was even unsure of what the outcome of that focus would, should, or could be.  And then I would weave that into conversations organically throughout the year, as would they.

3. I chose only a few action steps.
I certainly didn’t give myself enough steps to actually move the needle on a “mack daddy.”  For example, my mack-daddy goal for years has been to lose weight. But instead of tracking calories, joining a gym, throwing out all the Ding-Dongs and researching lap-band surgery, I considered what “discipline” might look like in that area of my life, and I chose one simple step to focus on for the year. My focus was discipline, so I decided to measure that by eliminating soda from my diet. One small step. Not enough to get me to the final finish-line on a mack daddy, for sure.

4. I stopped obsessing over assessing.
When we grit our teeth and lean into a New Year’s resolution, we’re like a jeweler looking for the perfect color, clarity, and cut of a gem. We’re meticulous, watching every single choice we make through the lens of success or failure. The truth is, occasional assessment still gives the opportunity to adjust trajectory without the threat of becoming so discouraged and demoralized that we just give up too early in the race. So I chose a few natural intervals in my annual calendar to check in on how I’d been doing with the three markers I’d set for discipline—I decided to only consider my success or failure at those intervals.

So, looking back, was my “fail on purpose” strategy a success or failure?

Well, I didn’t lose 100 pounds or anything.  But I didn’t have a single carbonated beverage in nine months.  When I did finally indulge, it was a ‘zero’ drink. And I lost 40 pounds—more than I ever have with a New Year’s resolution.

I didn’t memorize a Bible verse every week. But I missed only 21 days of reading my Bible last year. And I created or stored almost 300 verse images in my phone, and I’ve referenced them all year long.

I didn’t read a book per month, but I actually completed every book I started. Every. Single. One!

I set out to fail so I could succeed.  This year my focus is “restoration.”  I’m still considering what that looks like in terms of a few action steps. But this I know—I ended 2018 feeling like I crushed it for the first time ever, all because I decided failure was the right next step if I was going to succeed!

(By the way, if you’re looking for a little extra spiritual nudge with your resolve to grow deeper in your relationship with Jesus, check out the Jesus-Centered Planner before it sells out.)

 

 

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Failing On Purpose

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