Always be improving (even when you feel like a failure)

For the first time in my 2+ years of monthly challenges, I quit. I threw in the towel. I gave up.

Running was a disaster. I thought I’d be able to handle the short distances and that if I pushed through those first few days, I’d fall in love with exercise all over again. That didn’t happen. Every day was a greater struggle than the last. And so, on day 20, I stopped.

I’ve spent the past few days trying to understand how all of the great habits I once had have managed to fall apart this year. I can’t seem to follow through on my challenges with the same energy and zest. 18 months ago, I would have sailed through this challenge, no question about it. What happened?

There’s a blogger I follow, James Clear, who writes about the idea of marginal gains (and marginal losses), and how important the little decisions we make every day are.

In the beginning, there is basically no difference between making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse. (In other words, it won’t impact you very much today.) But as time goes on, these small improvements or declines compound and you suddenly find a very big gap between people who make slightly better decisions on a daily basis and those who don’t. This is why small choices don’t make much of a difference at the time, but add up over the long-term.

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I’ve been making small decisions that, on their own, don’t seem like a big deal. I choose to get off the treadmill early. I choose to skip the third set of pushups. I choose to eat the cupcake, have a slice of pizza or that last glass of wine.

But they are a big deal. The sum of these “slightly worse” choices have resulted in my becoming less motivated, less disciplined and less energized. Yes, life with three kids is different. Every day is more tiring and more complicated, but at the end of the day, I have nobody to blame for my current set of habits but myself.

If it sounds like I’m being hard on myself, I am.

I believe in setting high standards for yourself. Continuous improvement and the commitment to investing in yourself pay dividends, and it’s why I keep taking on new challenges. The successes and failures I’ve experienced with each one have helped me develop a better sense of self awareness, take more responsibility for my choices and complain less. And while I might be in the middle of a rough patch, I know that I have what it takes to get back on track.

What it takes is discipline.

Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day. —Jim Rohn

With a little self discipline, we can start to make those “slightly better” choices, day after day, that lead to more slightly better choices. Eventually, they turn into to decisions that we don’t even think about because the behavior has become automatic. It’s a great place to be.

The coming months (10 weeks to be exact) will be dedicated to rebuilding my habits. One small good decision at a time. Tune in next week to see what I plan to do.