Are you already failing at your New Year’s intentions?

statue of a young Aristotle

We’re only halfway through January and already I’m failing.

Do you make New Year’s resolutions or goals? Less than a third of the people I talk with say that they do. Some tell me they set goals; others have a general notion of what they want to change or accomplish. A few just continue on with the status quo. A small handful does as I do and sets a particular word or phrase to focus on for the year. In one way or another, we all set intentions. Even if you don’t intentionally set an intention, you have set an intention to change nothing. As the old adage goes, not making a choice is still a choice.

This year, my word is HABITS. After nearly five years of feeling like I’m only moving from one health calamity to another, I’ve fallen into some unproductive patterns. Let’s not call them “bad” because they served a purpose, but basically, I’ve become very good at resting. While that’s a wonderful contrast to my old workaholic ways, it doesn’t exactly accomplish all that I set my mind to. On New Year’s Eve, while on the plane flying home from San Antonio, I laid out my Top 10 list of habits I want to embed in my life. By practicing these things, they will simply become a part of my being.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Interestingly, this was not Aristotle, as it is so often attributed. The statement was actually penned by Will Durant in his book ‘The Story of Philosophy’ while summarizing a portion of Aristotle’s ‘The Nichomachean Ethics’. Nerdy sidenote: One of my final papers toward my degree in Philosophy was a review of The Nichomachean Ethics. I do love some good ol’ Aristotle.

But I’m already missing the mark on excellence.

How do you handle the inner critic voice that tells you that you’re not good enough, that you’re failing? We all know that voice. I call that negative B—- ‘the Discourager’. The Discourager tells me I’m failing, missing the mark, never going blah, blah, blah. You know the drill. BUT IS IT TRUE? This is the question we must continually examine. Which brings me back to Aristotle. Basically and simply stated (because it could get really deep into philosophy and let’s face it, you don’t actually care about that), look at what a thing really is.

I shush The Discourager by saying, “Oh really? Is it true that I’m failing; or is it true that I am trying?” Failure can’t be determined, because we are just not done yet. You are a work in progress. Whatever intentions you have set for yourself, if you feel like you’re failing, give grace. So long as you continue trying, the story isn’t over. The first key to excellence, then, is a habit of not giving up. In the words of those famous philosophers, Monty Python…

“I’m not dead yet!”


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