The sweet smell of failure

I recently read The Happiness Project and was completely inspired by it. The author, Gretchen Rubin, dedicated 1 year to being happier, not by traveling the world or uprooting her life, but rather by making small daily changes. She read up on happiness theories both academic and popular, did a bunch of soul searching, and came up with her 1-year plan, which involved dedicating each month to a different aspect of her life, such as Energy, Marriage, Work, and Parenthood. For each category she made a series of specific goals and tried to achieve them throughout the month.

For me, the greatest thing about the book is that becoming mindful and making all those little changes actually made Rubin happier. I love the idea that we are masters of our own happiness, that we have the power to be happier simply by willing it so and taking steps to make our own happiness a higher priority. So, being the extremely suggestible person I am, of course I decided to start a project of my own. I knew that for me it wasn't realistic to set goals a full year in advance, but I thought going month by month was definitely doable. I decided April should be HEALTH & FITNESS month, and I made some specific goals to help me through it:

1) Exercise 6 days a week.
2) Eat fruit and/or vegetables at every meal.
3) Cook 1 new recipe per week.
4) Schedule all overdue doctor and dentist appointments.
5) Spend some time outside every day the weather is nice.
6) Try 1 new exercise class or routine per week.

These seem like reachable, realistic goals, don't they? Nothing hugely drastic, no deprivation-style diets or boot camp workouts. Just simple steps to improve my health and fitness. Still, I had a feeling that if I wasn't accountable to anyone, I might fall off the wagon, so I enlisted Mama Bossy to do the project with me, with her own specific goals. We agreed to email each other every day with a report on how the day had gone as far as our goals were concerned.

If I'm being generous, I would say we made it 10 days. That's how long we kept emailing each other, anyway. I won't speak for Mama Bossy, but as for me, I completely failed at this project. I'm trying not to beat myself up about it, but I'm disappointed that even after setting myself up for success in every way I could think of, I still didn't have the willpower or the sticktoitiveness or whatever you want to call it to plan something and then actually follow through. If you were to look back through the archives of this blog, you will find countless times that I've outlined grand ambitions, especially in the arena of eating well and exercising, only to fail miserably after a few days. And there are many more examples that I've never even written about.

I wish this trait was restricted to exercise and eating right—surely everyone has trouble with those, right? But if I'm honest with myself, I know that the lack of follow-through is a pattern that pervades the rest of my life, too. I don't send out my résumé to new companies, or return phone calls and emails from friends, or stick to my budget. Half a dozen unfinished knitting projects are sitting in my closet. The corners of dozens of Cooking Light pages have been folded down and then never looked at again. I've owned a domain name for over a year and never done anything with it. And when I went through my books for the Great Purge, I realized there were 15 or 20 I had bought but never read.

On the other hand, today I went to the gym. And ate vegetables at lunch. And blogged.

So that's something.


  1. Wow LMB, you're pretty tough on yourself. Food for thought. Sending you a hug. Laurie F.

  2. A far as I can tell, you are doing fine. Remember, you have a big move ahead. This is a bad time to worry about diets, discipline, dentists; unread books and uneaten vegetables.

    Those a good things to fall back on when you get bored.


  3. Uh oh. You inherited it from me. But I did lose two pounds. Does that count for anything?

  4. Oh,oh! I think I'll have to own up to such habits, as well. But, notice all the wonderful things you do accomplish, one being your terrific blogs, your appreciation of your friends and family, your success in your work.
    We think you are a "keeper"!

  5. You think didn't set up to much for yourself? Sounds like a lot to me! I say make the goals much smaller, you'll achieve them, and you'll feel good about it. Rather than setting too-high goals and making a postive change, but feeling bad because it wasn't more. Cut your list by half and it's still a lot.
    Or stay with the ambitious list if you like ambitious lists, but define your success as copmleting 1/3 of the list.

  6. Well, it's clear from these comments that I inherited my lack of discipline honestly. :)

    Laurie and Anonymous (whoever you are): Thank you! I'm attempting to cut myself some slack, and wouldn't you know it, starting following my goals much better the minute I did. Sometimes I just need that reminder to breathe. xoxo


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