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Brace yourselves for some (fabulous) failure!

Updated: Jan 2

(This post was written about New Year's Resolutions but is pretty relevant whenever we are setting ourselves goals)

I may have absolutely no idea what day of the week it is right now but as soon as the clock strikes midnight tonight I'm going to do some kind of reverse Cinderella magic and be transformed into The Best Version of Me and start living a life of perfection, discipline, and success, ideally with some Prince/ss/x Charming swooping into my life to embrace me passionately as the fireworks go off.

Even though I've been living in my PJs for the last week, there are still mince pies leftover and pine needles to hoover up, come tomorrow I will start getting up at 6 am and hitting the gym before work. I'll prepare my meals for the week in advance, meditate, finish that online training course I signed up to, maybe even apply for a new job. I'll start putting money aside for my future, I'll volunteer at my local charity, I'll be a better more attentive friend/partner/family member. Hmmm....

Yep, it's that time of the year when it's customary for us to set The Big Goals AKA New Year's Resolutions for ourselves.

I hate to break it to you but here are a handful of happy little reasons why you're likely to fail (stick with me here and I promise this will end on a happier note!):

An old pocket watch with a gold case and white face on a dark green blurry background

1. They're probably not YOUR goals

Where did this vision for Your Best Self actually come from? Before you dive into trying to make them a reality, take some time to ponder this.

Now, I'm all for making changes to feel more fulfilled in our lives (see, I am still a Coach after all!) but New Year's Resolutions are often not where we will find more fulfilment because they are driven by us trying to fit into society's image of success, which is currently dominated by young, slim, attractive, white, able-bodied people.

They can therefore be devoid of meaning to us individually even if they are portrayed as meaningful things we should aspire to in society. We might believe we SHOULD go to the gym but if we don't deeply long for and enjoy something about that experience, the lack of meaning will lead to a lack of willingness when it becomes challenging or when we have the option to do something else that actually lights us up.

2. It's bad timing

Is RIGHT NOW the most optimal time to start making these changes, for you? For example, are you feeling resourced? How's your nervous system been over the last week or so? Maybe you've been on the go non-stop and feeling under loads of pressure or perhaps the opposite has been true and you've struggled to get yourself out of bed. Do you generally feel at your most motivated in winter?! If you have cycles, where are you at in your cycle now? Is there a time of the day, week, month, or year when you find trying new things easier? What if for you your optimal time for significant changes is mid morning on February 11th? Would that be OK?!

3. You're focusing on the outcome and not the journey

When we tell ourselves something like "if I don't get a new job next year, I'll be so miserable", what we are actually doing is working AGAINST ourselves in a couple of ways. We are fixated on the result - the new job - being the thing that will bring us happiness. I've been here so many times! And don't get me wrong, sometimes changing the situation IS the right move (particularly if you're in a toxic environment) but at times I wanted to leave because that felt easier than addressing the things that were making me unhappy. (This is also excruciatingly true of other situations, gulp!).

When we fixate on the outcome as the thing that will solve all of our problems, our unconscious starts to perceive the thing we want (and our fear of not getting it) as a threat and will actually turn away from it. So, with the whole "if I don't..., then..." framing, we are also likely to unintentionally invite our protective ego to block this before we even get going. Whilst we might hear this as motivation to get out of our current situation, our unconscious hears this as there's a danger of something bad - in this case misery - if we attempt this, so let's not even go there. It might seem counterintuitive but the job of our unconscious is to keep us safe right now, it has no sense of linear time (or your grand future plans). It just wants to stay in its happy place, all warm and squishy in the status quo.

4. New you, old life

We CAN succeed in making big changes in our lives. In my experience of changing cities, careers, and relationships, to name just a few, the big scary part was leading up to the first step. Sometimes that part took years and endless inner debates. I find once I have taken the first small step it's actually not that scary. I begin to wonder what all the procrastination was for. Just take a step, then another step.

One thing that has caught me off guard a few times though is the realisation that even if I can get to the point of completely buying into the change, not everyone in my life has been through - or will be willing to go through - the same process to adapt. As a result, it can feel quite isolating to start living the life you wanted. I remember when I stopped drinking alcohol 3 or 4 years ago. I hadn't realised it at the time but a lot of my social life and friendship groups were absolutely rooted in our shared pastime of drinking. Some of those friendships evolved and we found other ways to enjoy time together but others fell away.

"Without support, even if you have an experience of universal oneness, once you return back to your life, your job, your marriage, your relationships, these old structures tend to pull you back into conformity with them" Charles Eisenstein


Fair, I am missing a very important point in all of this by focusing on the impracticalities of trying to make wholesale changes to our lives midwinter after what can be one of the most stressful, pressured, or isolating times of the year for many of us.

There are a couple of suggestions I would like to offer to you:

Use this as a time to do a bit of a life audit, a non-judgemental pulse check on how things are for you.

I really love getting cosy under a blanket when it's cold and dark outside and having a bit of a check-in with myself.

Some routes for your reflection to take could be around how you feel about different aspects of your life - your work, your relationships, your health and wellbeing, your role in your community, your identity? What feels meaningful in your life at the moment? And where are you feeling unfulfilled - what is missing for you in these aspects? Where could I make different choices to get my needs met?

There are loads of great tools out there to support with this kind of reflective practice. I use Year Compass which is free to use and download on their site

Remember, you don't have to change everything tomorrow. Or this month. Or this year even. But this might get you closer to a sense of what's meaningful for you.

Reframe the whole thing!

Maybe New Year's Resolutions serve an unexpected but valuable purpose as an annual ritual or practice in working on our relationship with FAILURE.

Personally, I don't think this kind of self-development work gets anywhere near enough attention. Not many people want to go to a failure coach even though the fear of failure can completely disempower us and infiltrate every aspect of our lives. Fear of failure keeps us small, it keeps us quiet, it keeps us in unfulfilling lives, and it stops us from trying.

Slight sidenote...

I recently started following Nile Wilson, former artistic gymnast, on social media as part of my own failure coaching! Now retired, he often posts videos on his channels of him and his athlete mates taking on unbelievable physical challenges that have gone viral. Sometimes he will succeed at the challenges (and things get comically competitive between him and his mates) but just as often one of them just can't do it no matter how hard they try. They fail the challenge. Now Nile is a phenomenal gymnast - an Olympian no less, gold medal winner, literally one of the best humans in the world at what he did. So why do I enjoy watching these videos so much other than the fact that he seems to be a lovely Yorkshire lad (and I'm definitely not alone with half a million followers on Instagram alone)? Firstly, I think it's a reminder that even at the top of your game you can't do EVERYTHING. I am not going to be the best at everything I could possibly come across in the worlds of sex and kink, for example. Secondly, I love how joyfully he fails despite his competitiveness. There's a visible enjoyment at testing his limits and finally accepting that something is beyond him. Check out his Instagram here if you want to see what I mean! He also gave a touching TED Talk about the light and dark sides of what it takes to reach the levels he did.

So coming back to New Year's Resolutions, maybe there's something in this collective practice of setting goals that the majority of us will fail to live up to and to be able to all laugh about it together come mid-January! Maybe that is all the more reason why we should dare ourselves to dream BIG and enjoy the beautiful shadow work ritual you're a part of 💜

Image credit: Photo by Rodion Kutsaiev on Unsplash

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