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

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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A Perfectly Imperfect Christmas

Photo of my 3 kids in front of a Christmas tree when they were little

Our favorite ornament on the tree was received by my husband 16 years ago. A round red globe holds a small framed photo of our children. When you press a button, 3 little voices ring out in an offbeat chorus, “I love my Daddy! I love my Daddy! I love my Daddy! Merry Christmas!!” The kids and I laugh every year about struggling to get them to say that in sync. I finally gave up and ‘settled’ for having it in a round. The imperfection and shared memories are what makes the ornament a treasured memento.

I said a long time ago — When life doesn’t go as planned, lean in and laugh. That’s where the magic hides.

This year, on Christmas Day all but one of our family of five will board a plane to San Antonio to celebrate the holiday with our sweet red-headed Alex. He has been at Air Force Basic Military Training (BMT) since October 30th. I have missed him so much!! 

Unfortunately, this Christmas our family is dealing with more injuries and disappointment. This time it’s not me; it’s Alex. Both my husband and I have had a hard time focusing on Christmas or much of anything else because our hearts are already with him in San Antonio. I know God won’t give us more than we can handle, but geez I wish he’d stop trusting our resilience so much!

With only a week and a half to go in BMT, Alex was persuaded to get the pain in his legs checked out. He had been pushing through it because it’s what we do when we’re on a mission to meet a goal. Right?? Sometimes that isn’t enough. Like when I was pushing through extreme pain walking only to learn after 3 months of effort that my pelvis hadn’t actually healed attached to my spine and I broke one of the bolts holding me together. I made YouTube video the day I received that news. (When life gives you lemons, make a cup of tea.) I bet you can think of a time you’ve been pushing hard toward a goal, proud of your 100% committed effort, only to have a wrench thrown in the whole deal. How did you respond?

But back to Alex…. He has level 3-4 stress fractures in both lower legs. Thankfully no joints are involved. He was pulled from his squadron and put in the Med Hold unit where he waits to heal until he has the ability to re-join another training flight in their week 6 of BMT. As we know, fractures of any kind take as long to heal as bones take; there’s no speeding it up. He and the others in Med Hold are in a…well, a holding pattern. Now they work at training their mental fortitude and resilience. Which is so much harder than training physical ability. In the example from your own life that came to mind, how well did you play the mental game? Did you give up or did you persevere despite a disappointing set-back?

Alex was supposed to be in the graduation activities December 27th – 30th, including leaving base on town leave and being one of the Airmen selected to unfurl the U.S. flag at the Alamo Bowl. He doesn’t get any of that now. BUT…. he still gets base leave on those four days and we are still flying down to spend the time with him. What a blessing!!! AND…. he still wants to see his buddies graduate, to congratulate them and celebrate with them. This is one PROUD MAMA!!

When life hits you like a truck and things don’t play out perfectly the way you imagined in your head, how you react determines everything. (It seems the holiday season itself produces all kinds of those examples.) Look for the humor, the gratitude, and the reasons to celebrate. Our resilience muscles grow stronger every time we get out of our own head and look around for the magic hiding in plain sight.

From me and and my family, we wish you a perfectly imperfect and magical Christmas!