Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Learning From Your Setbacks

I am walking the dog now, by the ocean, still tired from the drive south. It is early and I am thinking I just need to rip around the block and get back to another cup of coffee. I am about three-quarters there when I (FINALLY) hear the surf. I (FINALLY) hear a bird’s unusual call. It’s the cardinal again. I didn’t remember her call. But there she is, flittering on a nearby bush. Then I (FINALLY) feel the warm breeze and see the upper dunes grass bending taking me up to see (FINALLY) the sunrise breaking through the cloud cover. 

Boy have I had a set back. How long has it been since I’ve noticed these details? Well, now that I’m on the other side of it I can (FINALLY) write about it. I can’t blame anyone else that I didn’t write for six days. That I didn’t make it to my oil painting class on Monday. And well I won’t bore you with the additional details of other things I didn’t stick to but I will share the experience with you and the three things I’ve learned from it.

First, you have to learn to let it ride. Like a rip current sometimes it is counter intuitive to fight it otherwise even the best of swimmers will drown. But it is helpful to attempt to learn what caused it so we can see it coming next time. This also gives you perspective. 

Second you have to remember that it’s all about the journey and if it was easy everyone would be doing it. And the journey is never a straight line. There are hills, dales, curves and storms.

And third, you need to remind yourself that new habits are not learned overnight and that even though you need to practice what you are learning and/or preaching you must acknowledge the willingness to fail, and be willing to fail in public.

So it doesn’t really matter how we get into our slumps. Be it lack of sleep, too many distractions, appointments, phone calls, the flu, other demands on our time and maybe even just a bad mood. But it does matter what we do during and after them. At first I was really beating myself up internally and reaching out for blame and it took a few days for this to be wrestled to the ground. I forced myself to stop ignoring it and sought out a place where I could calm myself and try to figure out what was going on. I discovered that I had tripped because I was looking too far down the road and didn’t see the proverbial curb right in front of me. Boom. Right down on my nose I went and who put that curb there anyway?  Oh yeah, it was me. So don’t forget, it’s one step at a time. There will be days when it feels like three steps back but trust me, you are making progress. Java!

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