A new year is upon us, bringing new experiences, new ambitions and new challenges. For many, 2020 left us filled with disappointment, much like a recent conversation I had with my husband:
“Welcome home, hubs. You’re not going to be happy about this, but ...”
“They’re out, again?”
Since moving some of the cattle to our house, the rascals had gotten out at least once a week for over a month. My farmer felt so defeated. He had put in extra hours that day, up early to get equipment working and getting loads hauled in before the weekend. He thought he had really set them up for success by giving them plenty of land to roam, building a decent fence and getting plenty of corn ready.
But despite his best efforts, his plan continued to fail.
Around this time each year, my New Year’s resolution is met with the same failure. The resolution: We make “a firm decision to do or not do something” (according to Oxford English Dictionary), and we’re convinced we can make it an entire year without breaking that resolution, often to be sorely disappointed after our first big setback.
The reality: Resolutions are all about making changes, and change is hard! Sometimes, it’s REALLY hard. If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t need to choose a resolution because you’d already have everything accomplished! When we assume our resolutions will come without setbacks, we’re expecting perfection and setting ourselves up for failure.
So, how can we stay hopeful and productive when facing setbacks? Here’s a few things to consider:
A setback doesn’t mean you’ve lost. Just because you mess up doesn’t mean you throw your goals out the window. Every single second of your day is an opportunity to restart and try again.
Did you vow not to each chocolate, and found yourself stuffing your face with Christmas candy today? Don’t give yourself a pass; try again, right now! Throw the half-eaten candy in the trash.
Or finish it, but then have a family member hide the rest. When we accept that mistakes will be made on the journey to our end goal, we don’t have to waste time beating ourselves up or giving in at every setback. We grant ourselves some grace, and then try again.
Change your strategy. Ultimately, setbacks are a sign that your plan might need to be adjusted. What can you change that will make it easier to reach your goal?
First, my husband tried adding another line to our fence, which was helpful ... until #43 decided it wasn’t, and crawled right under. After some frustration, we tried again. Turns out, barbed wire was a better plan! It doesn’t matter how many times you make changes, as long as you’re creating a better plan that will lead you to your goal.
Think about what’s going right instead of focusing on what’s going wrong. Instead of getting a disappointing phone call every time the cows were out, I started sending my farmer messages on days the cows didn’t get out. This gave him a sense of relief (and gave us both a daily chuckle). Even if we had one not-so-great day a week with the cattle, we had six other days that week to celebrate that things worked out.
Whether it’s a New Year’s resolution, a new endeavor on the farm or just a new personal goal, remember that the journey won’t be perfect. It’s OK if you make a few mistakes. It’s OK if there are setbacks ... expect them. As long as you’re making progress and becoming better, you’re headed in the right direction.
And remember, progress is worth celebrating, maybe even more than reaching your goal.