It’s going to happen. I can promise you – it will happen. I don’t need to know your name or your character (although I do know both for a few of you), but I know this is going to happen for you. Change out any of the details and this is still true!
I mean, you could be the most proactive, goal-oriented, disciplined person. Or you could be the laziest, most unmotivated, and undisciplined person too.
It’ll happen to all of us.
What am I talking about here?
Wanting to change and falling short.
Seeking to do something different and stumbling.
Longing for a new “year” and struggling when it feels like you’re stuck.
My Takeaway from Walking with Friends Through Change
Over the last month or two, I’ve talked to several friends who are navigating big changes. Some days have been easier than others for them. But they’ve had moments where they fell short, stumbled and felt stuck emotionally.
As we’ve talked on the phone, hung out in person and texted back and forth, I’ve tried to be a voice of encouragement for my friends. One friend asked me what I wish someone had told me when I was in his position (because I have been in his position in the past).
As I’ve been thinking about these conversations, I realized the words I’ve been sharing with these few friends actually apply to all of my friends. In fact, they apply to all of my readers here and humanity at large. (Sadly, those two groups – readers of ScottSavageLive.com and humanity – are not synonymous. But hey, a guy can have goals for audience growth in a new year!)
I want you to close your eyes for a minute and imagine for a minute. (You gotta open them to read this – crud! This is not working out the way I hoped.) Well, I want you to imagine something while you’re pretending to close your eyes.
Imagine we’re sitting a table over some great coffee (or tea or soda or amazing mineral water – whatever your thing is.) And you’re sharing about how you just failed to keep your New Year’s resolution and it’s not even double-digit days into this new year. Imagine you telling me how you really wanted to change but it’s not going the way you hoped. You’re sharing about the big shift you wanted to make but you just felt flat on your face and you want to give up.
Here’s what I would say to you if I was sitting across the bistro table from you. These are the 9 Things I’d Tell You As A Friend When You Failed at Your New Year’s Resolution. (Or change, goal, plan, dream, etc.)
9 Things I’d Tell You As A Friend When You Failed or Stumbled
1. Lasting change is less about willpower and more about sustained habits.
Maybe I’m late to the party, but I’ve discovered willpower ebbs and flows. Some days, I’m motivated and some days I’m not. Is that true for you too?
Habits trump willpower every day.
If we were having coffee or texting, I would encourage you to get into the habits where the habit drives your behavior. If you’re a follower of Jesus, your habit might be to connect with God on a daily basis. Jesus talked in John 15 about how our fruitfulness comes as we remain connected spiritually. (I’m working on some habits in this area this year.)
So, to continue the analogy, what habits help you connect to God on a daily basis? Which of those habits can you practice daily in a sustainable way over a long period of time?
Regardless of the context, sustainable habits mean a lot more than a bunch of willpower for three or five days or a couple weeks. Willpower alone leaves us burned out, loathing ourselves and feeling worse off than when we started.
2. Make sure you’re tackling the right change – not just the superficial change when a deeper change is needed.
I’ve written previously about this theme (“this is about that“), so check out the post if you want to learn more. Simply put, “this is about that” means what we’re talking about or dealing with is about something much deeper or bigger.
If I was your friend and you were seeking some new perspective and encouragement, I’d probably ask you, “Is that really the problem or is it something deeper?” Make sure you’re changing the thing which really will make the difference.
3. You don’t necessarily need a date on a calendar to make a change.
Because you don’t need a date on the calendar, you can make a decision today! You can actually make a decision day after day. And that’s what will likely mean the most. Not what you did for a few days in early January, but what you’re willing to do day after day, week after week, month after month, even year after year.
4. You don’t have to give up at the first sign of failure.
I just love this image. I’ve had this saved on my phone for several years as a reminder that I’m tempted to give up too soon. In the workout program I’m currently doing, I’ve lost track of how many times I give up on an exercise only to look up at the TV and see I had 5 seconds left before the exercise time would’ve been done.
I’m not sure who said it first, but I believe a breakdown can lead to a breakthrough. Sometimes, when we stumble and it feels like we fail, we’re standing on the cusp of a big breakthrough. We can’t go around the hard stuff in life if we want to grow and thrive. We have to go through the hard stuff.
Sure, we can give up at the first sign of failure, but we’re often closer to what we want than we think.
5. Missing a day isn’t a failure.
One morning of hitting the snooze button seven times doesn’t make you a failure physically. In the same way, one bad day with your attitude doesn’t make you a failure at work or in your family.
Sure, missing a day when it comes to your ambitions is disappointing. But disappointment doesn’t equal defeat.
Instead, what if you took the longer term view? You’re going to have good days and bad days, a good streak and a rough patch. Give yourself some grace while remaining focused on your long-term goals.
And recognize that the goals we set are often too big for this short period and too small for a longer period. We think we’ll accomplish more right now than we can but we settle for small dreams and ambitions when we think about a decade or a lifetime.
One caveat here is being strategic with the days we miss. For example, if you’re working on exercise, don’t worry about skipping a day, as long as it’s Monday. Skip any day but Monday. In my opinion, all days are not created equal. Mondays = momentum. If you’re trying to get back into fitness and health, win on Monday and you’ll likely win all week. Skip Monday and you’re going to struggle to get the momentum back.
6. There’s a big difference between “I failed” and “I am a failure.”
Leadership guru Zig Ziglar famously said, “Failure is an event, not a person.”
Brene Brown has built on this concept within her incredible research and writing on shame. Brown delineates the difference between guilt and shame this way. “Guilt says I did something bad; shame says I am bad.”
(Now if you’re a follower of Jesus, I know we could launch off into a whole discussion on sin and salvation here, but that’s not our subject for today and this is not a theology blog.)
It’s important to know the difference between these two phrases. We must remind ourselves of our value and worth as a person is not defined by our actions (our successes nor our failures). One event doesn’t define us – positively or negatively.
7. Snowball the change.
Dave Ramsey popularized this “snowball” concept in his financial teaching, especially as it relates to debt repayment. He encourages his audience to list all of their debts from lowest to the highest amount (disregarding interest rates) and pay them off in order of volume. He says (and I’m paraphrasing here), “you need the momentum of knowing you’re making progress and you can achieve this goal more than you need the mathematical difference between interest rates.”
I think Dave’s right. Many of us try to jump the Grand Canyon in terms of making a change. We pursue changes which are grandiose. The old proverb warns against trying to eat an elephant in a day. But instead, take the elephant piece by piece and over time, you’ll accomplish more than you could imagine.
If you can, break your change into smaller stages and tackle those one at a time, allowing each victory to fuel your confidence and courage.
8. Think longer term. You probably overestimating how much change you can make in the short term, but you also underestimating how much change you can make in the long term.
I’ve heard enough people use this quote I feel safe stealing it without attribution. It lines up with what I read in the Scriptures, as a follower of Jesus and a pastor. We live in a world which has lost all its patience for the sake of the “hustle.”
I love hustling. I believe in hard work. But I reject the impatience and tyranny of the urgent. Because there are things I cannot accomplish immediately. And there are things that we cannot do ourselves.
One of my favorite Scripture passages is Philippians 2:12-13.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
The Apostle Paul reminds us here to do all we can while God does all God can.
I call this the “Patient Hustle.” Be patient and seek a bigger perspective. At the same time, heed the words of missionary and martyr Jim Elliott. “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”
9. Find someone to go through the change with you.
If we were having coffee, I’d ask how I could help you take your next step forward. I have people who check in with me daily or weekly with regards to the things I’m working on in my life this year.
If our change is big enough, we won’t be able to do it alone. We’ll need help. Either we’ll need someone to help you achieve it or we’ll need someone to encourage us while we give it all you got.
This might be an accountability partner who is pursuing the same goal. It could be someone to ask us each week, “hey, how did that go?” Sometimes, just knowing someone will be checking in is the motivation we need to get over the hump. Many weeks, I write a blog post simply because I’ve promised hundreds of subscribers I will. I don’t feel like it, but I feel less like breaking my word to all of you.
Essentially, we each someone (or some people) in our lives who are more committed to us as people rather than our performance. This person isn’t here for the outcome; they’re here for the process. And they’re committed to us regardless.
Now, It’s Your Turn!
Whether you’re killing your resolutions and goals for this year, or you’ve given them up a while ago and you’re stumbling along, I pray I can be a voice of hope in your life this year. All of us could use more encouragement.
Let me know in the comments which of these 9 statements is most relevant to where you’re living. I’m super curious!