A Four Letter F-Word
January 6, 2014
I’ve been watching a news story on the television. Most of the programme had been filled with weather-beaten reporters broadcasting live from the wind-swept, water-logged regions of the UK and, as I suspect they were all in need of fresh clothes and a warm drink, the programme switched to the studio for a topical story in early in the New Year.
The story was focussing on a survey, conducted as the year was still in its infancy, which showed that some people were having difficulty keeping the resolutions they had made. I have to say the feature was interesting but, to me, very depressing simply because of the tone and language used.
It got me thinking about resolutions… and my first port of call was my trusty dictionary (a well-thumbed dog-eared volume which has been with me since my ‘A’ levels and which I turn to regularly to clarify my understanding of words I know and to learn the meaning of words that are new to me… sometimes I do have to revert to an online dictionary, but only when “old faithful” isn’t quite modern enough).
However it didn’t let me down and provided the following definition:
Resolution: The state or quality of being resolute; firm determination; resolving to do something; a course of action determined or decided on.
And that is the context in which many of us make resolutions at the start of a new year. We make a commitment to try and change something in our life which is usually connected with a habit or behaviour. Sound simple. But it isn’t. Changing behaviour; breaking habits or creating new habits is challenging. It takes time and effort and resolve and determination. That’s what makes succeeding so rewarding…
But in the definition of resolution there is no indication of a required timeframe; of the number of attempts required. It only refers to making a commitment to a course of action.
So back to the television news story. As I mentioned above, the tone of the story was really demoralising. The basic information was that, even so early on in the new year, many resolutions had fallen by the wayside. At least according to the survey of people who were asked if they had made resolutions for 2014 and whether they had managed to stick to them. Many of the respondents admitted that they had not been as immediately successful as they would have hoped to be and that they had found it challenging.
I understand all of that. I know that feeling, I’ve been there myself…
But it was one word in the whole piece that was used repeatedly (and at times with obvious relish by the reporter) and that was the utterly demoralising, confidence-destroying, self-esteem shattering four-letter “F” word… FAIL.
I know that the point of a resolution is to be determined to change something in your life, to commit to it, to focus on it and to strive to do your best to stick to your plan of action… but the problem with our common understanding of New Year resolutions is that the moment you give in to a moment of weakness, the instant that you give in to temptation, then you must consider that a FAIL. Black and white, no grey area… you didn’t stick to your resolution therefore you are a failure. That’s a pretty damning verdict in my opinion.
And, having failed, there often seems little point in continuing a course of action… Which leads us to quitting whatever it is we have resolved to accomplish.
There is a saying that “failure is not an option”. I’m not sure about that, my view is that it should be “quitting is not an option”. No matter how many times you have a wobble, fall by the wayside, or give in to temptation… it is not the “failing” that means you will never achieve the results you want, it is the “quitting” after you feel you have failed that means you will never know success.
I failed my driving test twice. If I adopted the television news view, that would be that. End of. No point continuing. FAIL.
But life isn’t like that. Just because I hadn’t been ultimately successful didn’t mean that my efforts were worthless; that my attempts were futile; and that I would never succeed.
I learned a lot during my “first two” driving tests. I discovered that I was far more nervous sitting next to the examiner than I ever was sitting next to my driving instructor; I realised that I was still far more frightened of other cars on the road than I had realised; and, when reading the test sheet at the end of each of them, I could see the areas where I needed to focus and make more effort; I could see my weaknesses, but I could also see that I had come a very long way since the evening of my first tentative, terrifying lesson…
So, if you have made a resolution for New Year, and if it hasn’t gone quite as well as you would have hoped… don’t get despondent; don’t let it defeat you. You are not alone… many of us are facing challenges as we try and change our habits, behaviours and tendencies. Just because you haven’t had 100% success thus far does not mean that you have failed. To have truly failed you will have had to have learned nothing; discovered nothing; and have lost the will and determination to even continue to try. That is failure.
A New Year wobble is just that. A point in time; a momentary lapse; a temporary loss of focus or commitment. It is not the end of the resolution. It is a lesson learned. It is an opportunity to revise and review the situation… to refocus, plan and prepare to continue.... and by continuing … you are still making a success of the situation.
So if you find yourself thinking about a situation and preparing to use the four-letter “F” word as you appraise your progress, think carefully… You could be downgrading yourself too harshly and completely unnecessarily.
With a hug and wish for a Marvellous Monday for you all.