by Stephanie Hertzenberg
How many of us have already “failed” at our New Year’s resolutions? Did you promise to lose weight, but binged on the box of Krispy Kremes in the break room? Did you decide to save money, only to go buy a new smartphone? Or are you like me, and were determined to get your house cleaned up, only to realize that clutter in the corner has simply been relocated to the closet floor?
If you’re one of us that has already “failed,” you are in good company. According to a recent study by the Statistic Brain Research Institute, less than 10 percent of people feel they managed to achieve their New Year’s Resolution. In fact, many of us make the same resolution every year, only for “failing” to become a tradition in its own right.
Notice the quotes around the word failed.
The reality is, having those donuts doesn’t mean you have no hope of losing weight this year and failing to really clean up that mess doesn’t mean you are going to spend 2017 hopelessly unorganized. It means you need to be patient.
The top three New Year’s resolutions for 2017 are: lose weight or eat healthier, self-improvement and better financial decisions. All of these are commendable changes, but they are also big changes that won’t happen overnight. Instead, you have to be patient with your progress. You won’t be a gym guru by the end of February and you won’t have defeated your social anxiety in six weeks. It takes months to form a habit, and you are going to “fail.” When you do, to borrow my mom’s favorite phrase, give yourself some grace. Accept you had a bad day or made a mistake. Then move on.
If you ate too many donuts, use that mistake as motivation to make sure you get to the gym tomorrow. If you bought that smartphone, stay in on Friday night instead of going to a movie. Adjust where you can, forgive yourself and try again tomorrow.
Part of the best way to do that is to focus on making progress, instead of worrying about doing it perfectly. No one turns their life around overnight. Don’t let one mistake, one stumbling block, take you out of the race entirely. More than 40 percent of people give up on their New Year’s resolutions in the first month. Don’t do that to yourself. Don’t decide because you weren’t perfect, you shouldn’t even bother to keep trying.
In fact, most of life’s problems simply can’t be handled perfectly. They also can’t be handled without patience.
As our population ages, many people are dealing with aging parents and know patience is key to dealing with the sudden role reversal. Others are facing the challenges new parenthood or young children bring and must rely on their patience to get through the inevitable, and creative, adventures each day brings. Still others are facing the trials that come with PTSD and mental trauma, and must attempt to be patient as they face the long struggle ahead. No one can expect to be perfect when faced with the hardships life can bring. Instead, we must focus on the progress we have made when we seem to falter and “fail.”
Cartoonist Stephen McCranie once said “the master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” Don’t abandon your determination to make a positive change in your life just because you “failed” on the first try. Focus on the fact you never used to go to the gym and now you go twice a week. Remember you are buying bargain brands instead of brand names and how much money that has saved you. Be proud of your progress. Be patient with yourself. Leave perfection in the past.
Stephanie Hertzenberg, a year-long intern with Valley Living, served as editor for this issue of the magazine. She also works part-time for the Shine children’s Sunday school curriculum and interns at WMRA.