The Best Way To Fail Miserably at What Matters Most

You may have heard it said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. I say it's something a little different... {Image credit: headoff / 123RF Stock Photo}

You may have heard it said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. I say it’s something a little different… {Image credit: headoff / 123RF Stock Photo}

Perhaps the only thing worse than failing at what you’ve worked for is failing more than once with the same goal.

I bumped up against that ugly fact this week. As I’ve written here recently, I’ve been pregnant with a book, which, it turns out, puts weight on like being pregnant with a human being. Last week, I decided to get back to the gym. Except that traveling to the gym didn’t actually fit in to my schedule with kids winding down from school for the summer (read: lots of activities and early dismissals).

Imagine my luck, when a good friend shared her easy solution to a busy mom’s fitness woes — a pedometer!

Being a walker already, I figured the little gadget would help me in two ways:

  1. Motivation: to get to those 10,000 steps a day, thus exercising more than I’d been doing, and…
  2. Documentation: so I could celebrate the routine walking that’s already part of my days.

I loaded the app on my phone, and logged over 13,000 steps a day the first week by adding just 15 minutes more walking to the usual routine!

“Great job, self!” I exclaimed in the bathroom mirror before stepping on the scale for my weekly weigh-in.

But the scale wasn’t as excited as I was. “Why would it register 2 pounds heavier than last week?” I pouted. But, knowing muscle is heavier than fat, I dismissed the scale and grabbed my tape measure instead. “Size, not weight, is the real measure of real fitness progress,” I reminded myself.

I measured. I balked. I threw the tape measure across the bathroom.

It was that moment I realized I’d become the unwitting poster-child for how to fail at a goal. And I knew exactly how that happened, which only made things worse…until I decided to stop. If I’ve learned anything from life and coaching people, it’s this:

The best way to fail at what you want most is to do it exactly like someone else.

That truth can show up in many ways as we seek to accomplish goals. With my pedometer debacle, it played out in two ways:

I ignored what I know works for me in favor of what worked for my friend.

My body needs a different strategy than my friend’s does. Hers needs lots of cardiovascular to be healthy, where I’ve always felt better (and fit my favorite jeans!) with more of my workout dedicated to strength training. A pedometer wasn’t going to change my innate needs and body make up. I need to do what works for me, in the same way you need to do what works for you and your life as you pursue your own goals.

We each have unique needs and quirks that any change we make must account for.

Whether it’s organizing your kitchen, finishing a rough draft of your first book, or getting the kids to bed on time, the change will only happen–and stick– if you do it with your personality and needs in mind. Are you a late-nighter? Organize the kitchen while the family’s asleep. Are you a social person? Talk through that last chapter of your rough draft with a friend. I know from experience how much that can inspire writing from the heart. However it looks for you, plan your goals to work with you instead of follow someone else’s model.

I let my strengths morph in to a weakness.

I’m a natural get-it-done girl. It feels good to get things done, to cross them off my list, to look back and feel like the day was productive. I wanted to achieve and accomplish those 10,000 steps each day. But all cardio doesn’t work for me… so I was “achieving” myself in to a pit. I needed to find a way to pursue my goal that used my strengths instead of making them a weakness. So I downloaded another kind of app for my inner achiever to love: one that helps set and track goals for a certain number of squats and pushups. Makes my get-it-done nature happy, AND helps me actually achieve better fitness. Bonus!

Watch out for circumstances and choices that turn your strengths into weaknesses.

What about you? Have you found yourself failing at something you want to accomplish? What’s a next step you could take to get going in the right direction again?


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  1. Lynn Hare says

    Laurie, great post. I struggle with my relationship with my daughter-in-law. But I’m trying to do this relationship with other people’s conventional ideas. After reading your post, I’m going to pray for God to give my little gray cells some creative, never-done-before ideas. An infusion of fun. Lower the bar. Look out.

    • says

      That’s a great prayer to pray for ANY challenge we face… in fact I’m joining you in that today – praying God would give my little gray cells some creative, never-done-before ideas as I finish writing this book!

  2. says

    Oh, yes. I have “achieved” myself into more pits than I care to count. First it’s “Oh, look at his/her success! I’ll do that and be successful too!”, followed by a hard faceplant to the floor. 🙁

    I do love to walk, which I haven’t been doing partly out of laziness and partly because I am a warm weather walker. My pants fit better when I do, too. I will have to check into a pedometer. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • says

      Hopefully the pedometer won’t be an “achieve yourself into a pit” moment for you like it was for me. I’m happy to say I’m achieving myself out of the pit with my two other phone apps: the 100 pushup app and the 100 squat app. I’m making progress and seeing those 2 pounds take a hike. Woot!

      • says

        Ha ha! Hopefully not. Wowee-yay for “pushing” yourself out of the pit!
        I do need to do strength training, but I just prefer walking. Gotta get that motivation on… 🙂

  3. Kelli Wommack says

    I love this and it is sooooo true for me! I read an article, implement it, and don’t get the same results. Instead I get frustration! I know what works for me – I just need to do THAT. And get on with it. Seriously. Wish you lived next door so we could go to the gym TOGETHER!

    • says

      That’s the biggest message God keeps giving me as I try to wrap up this first book: stick to what I gave YOU. Don’t get swept away by every wind of an idea that floats by. It’s a tough discipline, but such a peace-giver!