Mind & Body

Finding Success in Failure

For me 2017 was about settling into some pretty major life changes that I made at the end of 2016.  In the last three months of 2016, I moved from Boston to Hawaii, got married, and started a new job.  I did not specifically set any New Year’s resolutions related to any of these three major life events, but in looking back, I made many goals for myself along the way.  Moving to Hawaii meant leaving a strong family and friend base behind.  I pushed myself to meet new friends by joining a running group, and although awkward in the beginning to be the newcomer I motivated myself each week to attend.  Now, I feel like I have a community to fall back on.  Prior to getting married, my now husband and I spent a year and a half in a long distance relationship, which meant that not only were we learning what marriage meant we were relearning what it meant to be together.  Through being intentional in our marriage we have grown in our ability to communicate, and I have learned how to be more humble, more forgiving of myself and more vulnerable in the process.  Finally, starting my second “real adult job” was certainly a scary endeavor.  I have accomplished a lot in my first year, mostly through sheer perseverance and my willingness to say “yes” to opportunity.  I have joined a leadership development program and a Hawaiian cultural experience.

 

Despite all of these successes, when Madeleine and I first discussed writing this post, I told her that I hadn’t succeeded at either of my resolutions.  While true, letting relatively minor resolutions cloud my year of overwhelming success, was a clear example of letting my inner critic shine through.  Despite this initial instinct to criticize, I was able to reflect on the so called “failures” to realize that I have actually made tremendous inner personal growth.  My resolutions for 2017 were: 1) Complete a 30 day yoga challenge during the month of January and 2) Run my first marathon.  I did neither of those things, and while I did more yoga and ran further in 2017 than ever before, it is not these accomplishments that I am most proud of.

 

For me, my lack of success in completing both of these resolutions, pales in comparison to the growth that I have found in failing.  As described above, I have a say yes, grit-through-it type of personality.  This drive has served me well in accomplishing many achievements.  Nonetheless, it has also been this personality that has driven me to high levels of stress and worry.  I have previously developed guilt and self loathing when I have failed.  I have noticed among my friends that it is especially the women who beat themselves up with crippling stress and anxiety, or alternatively unhealthy habits like lack of sleep, in order to accomplish outward or overt successes.  In the instance of both my resolutions I did not spiral into this negative self talk or excessive stress in the name of success.  In the case of the yoga, I quit the 30 day challenge after about two weeks.  I found that juggling work, commuting, going to the gym or running, enjoying the early months of being newly married and finding time to do yoga to be too much.  I would set an alarm extra early to ensure that I got my yoga session done before the day began, which in theory was a great idea, but knowing I had to get up early to complete my yoga session led to many sleepless hours staring at my ceiling, tossing and turning.  The yoga, an activity meant to relieve stress, was causing me so much anxiety that I couldn’t sleep.  I came to the realization that my wellbeing, the core reason for completing the yoga, was more important than actually completing the yoga.  I decided to incorporate more yoga whenever it fit easily in to my schedule, instead of holding myself to a strict and stressful regiment.

 

The decision to not run my marathon was certainly more painful, both emotionally and physically.  I have considered myself a runner since I joined my high school’s cross country team 13 years ago.  These have been 13 years riddled with injury and forced time off.  In college I competed for exactly one out of twelve seasons.  Since my injuries in college, I have become a more cautious runner, more willing to take time off at minor pains, which led me to successfully complete three half marathons.  I decided it was time to try the full marathon, but my foot had different ideas.  With the marathon quickly approaching, I tried to persevere through pain despite my better judgement, but eventually the pain was too acute, and I knew I needed to stop.  I have now not run for the past two months.  Although I fell into the old pattern of pushing myself despite injury, I feel proud of my new attitude to the loss of running.  I certainly experienced sadness and a tinge of jealousy on marathon day, but I have not been rushing back into the running like I used to.  I have been working on increased patience and really letting my body heal.  I am using the time to explore new types of exercise and other non-exercise hobbies, like this blog.  While running will probably always be my passion, I see great value in exploring and learning more about what I love and what my body can do.  There may come a day when running is no longer an option, and this time off will equip me for that potential future.  I am feeling successful in my ability to adjust my mindset in this way.  

 

People may avoid making resolutions due to fear of failure or giving up.  I believe that setting resolutions provides value in guiding decisions for the year, but these resolutions must be set with flexibility and self love.  Setting resolutions that we are willing to work towards but also willing to fail at can help lead to a greater understanding of self.  For me it was in this giving up and failure that I found more growth than even success would have allowed.  I hope to continue to reflect on my more internal success of 2017 and seek changes within myself that reduce anxiety and stress.   

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