The Better Me Project—Day 23
So a few days ago I introduced the precept of Lowering Expectations. Initially, it sounds like I’m setting myself up for failure, but it turns out that the opposite is true. By lowering my expectations, I’m allowing myself to be successful because in the long run, failure can be the key to success.
Maybe I Sound Nuts, but Hear Me Out
What is failure? According to Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary, failure is defined as a lack of success in some effort. It can be one-time or it can be repeated. The thing about failure is that it simply means a lack of success for this particular endeavor at this particular time.
It is not necessarily all encompassing. Despite the way we feel when we fail, it does not mean success is out of reach. In fact, failure is merely a predecessor to success in many cases.
You’ve seen those memes about how Edison tried a bazillion times to create the light bulb and how Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected and how Steven Spielberg didn’t get into film school. None of them let their failures stop them and they all eventually became successful.
These stories are supposed to boost morale and get people to see that failure isn’t permanent. Plus, by failing, we get a glimpse into how NOT to accomplish something…making it less likely to repeat the same mistakes in the future. Failure helps us learn how to be successful.
Yeah, Well Failure is Still a Tough Pill to Swallow
It’s really hard to look past the sting of failure when you’re right in the thick of things. It is difficult to pick yourself up after you’ve failed and remind yourself that this failure isn’t a permanent thing. Especially if it is something that you’ve been trying to be successful with repeatedly, or something that you’ve invested a lot of time and effort into.
That’s why it’s good to start off with lower expectations. When you start off with a task you want to be successful at, it’s sometimes best not to expect too much…at first.
Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t put in the same effort you would normally, I’m saying that sometimes you (and I) need to accept that you’re not going to be successful right out of the gate. Success takes time and patience. Sometimes, very rarely, something works on the first try.
But mostly life is a game of falling down and getting back up. And falling down. And getting back up. And repeat until you’ve gotten it right.
I Have to Remind Myself of This CONSTANTLY
Confession time. I’m preaching about this, but I am the worst offender. I beat myself up when I fail or even when I don’t do things exactly the way I want to do them. Or when things don’t work out, despite my hard work or incessant planning. As soon as something doesn’t go the way I hoped, I start badmouthing myself and making myself feel terrible.
I convince myself that I’m useless and I’ll never get it right (even if it’s my first time trying something). I throw my hands up in the air and say, “That’s it! I’m no good! I quit.”
I am awful to myself when I should be my biggest cheerleader. I’m sure that I’m not alone in this type of behavior. A lot of people beat themselves up over their failure, forgetting that it just means we have to try again.
Lowering My Expectations
So this is where lowering my expectations comes in. I’m subscribing to the motto of “Hope for the best and expect the worst”. That way when things don’t work out, I am not disappointed. But by “hoping for the best” (and trying my best…that’s an important key), I am not dismissing the possibility that I can be successful. Despite my Better Me Project, things haven’t been completely rosy lately.
I’ve had a string of failures followed by some moderate success and then more failure. The part that strikes me as funny is that I’ve actually been trying harder than I ever have in the past, spending more time and effort in my endeavors. And yet, failure. Or at least, not the success I’ve been hoping for.
A lot of times I will find myself replaying events in my head. I’ll start obsessing over my failures, wishing I could go back in time and fix where I went wrong. Sometimes it’s helpful for the future, but mostly, it’s exhausting. It makes me want to climb into bed and pull my covers over my head and wave my white flag.
Pick Myself Up By the Bootstraps
Does anyone ever say that anymore? I have to say it to myself now. I cannot allow myself to be defined by my lack of success in certain things. What I need to do is remind myself at how far I’ve come and how far I will go if I keep pushing forward, if I keep getting back up when I fall down. I. Need. To. Learn. From. My. Mistakes.
The author of You Are a Badass reminds me that I can do what I want to accomplish if I continue to work toward it, not if I give up on it. I obviously can’t achieve my goals if I give up on them, can I? It’s not like someone else will accomplish them for me. Only I can do this.
Just Keep Swimming
Every time I burn dinner, each time I say the wrong thing, every time I get rejected by BookBub , and each time I’m not the perfect wife and mother, I have a I have to remember life is a process and I can’t get mad at myself or punish myself when I’m not perfect.
As much as I want to be successful, I can’t let myself feel like a failure, even when I fail. I will succeed…just not this time. One foot in front of the other, one success (and failure) at a time. I have to be like Dory and just keep swimming.