Thursday, January 2, 2014

How Failure May be the Road to Success



I recently saw a cartoon that went something like this:  One character asked another, "What is a New Year's resolution?"  The other one answered, "A To-do List for the first week of January."  :)

There is a lot of truth in that quip!  Most New Year's Resolutions don't last past the first month of the year, even if they do make it past that first week!

Many of us women are perfectionists, which means we have an "all or nothing" mindset.  We make a goal to exercise every day and when we miss a day due to illness, a crazy schedule or our own laziness, we just quit exercising all together. Or, we make a goal to eat more healthfully or follow a certain diet, and when we mess up and discover that we just ate a whole bag of M&Ms, we either throw out the whole diet, or we pig out for the rest of the week and say we will start over again next Monday!  (That's because a perfectionist never starts over in the middle of the week or the middle of the day!!  It's an unwritten rule that can't be broken!)   ;)

The problem is we feel that if we can't do something perfectly, we just won't do it at all.  This is a tried-and-true recipe for failure!  We must learn to succeed in spite of our imperfections, inconsistencies and failures.

I love these words from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, found on January 5th:

"You can achieve the victorious life through living in deep dependence on Me.  People usually associate victory with success: not failing or stumbling, not making mistakes.  But those who are successful in their own strength tend to go their own way, forgetting about Me.  It is through problems and failure, weakness and neediness that that you learn to rely on Me."

If we have identified goals for ourselves that cause us to form new habits that involve denying ourselves and saying, "No" to the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life (1 John 2:16), we will find that we don't get very far without crying out to God for strength and relying on His power to resist temptation.  (John 15:5b - ". . . for apart from Me you can do nothing.")

Fortunately, for the Christian, God promises that where we are weak, He is strong!  In fact, His strength is made perfect in weakness!  (2 Corinthians 12:9)

So, when we fail to meet up to our own expectations and fall short of our carefully made goals, we should follow these steps to success:


1.  Make sure our goals line up with God's goals for us.

The same entry from Jesus Calling goes on to say, "True dependence is not simply asking Me to bless what you have decided to do.  It is coming to Me with an open mind and heart, inviting Me to plant My desires within you.  I may infuse within you a dream that seems far beyond your reach.  You know that in yourself you cannot achieve such a goal.  Thus begins your journey of profound reliance on Me."

Goals for self-improvement or accomplishing grandiose plans are great . . . but only when they line up with God's goals and purposes for our lives.  God's plans for us may actually be much bigger . . . . or smaller . . . than what we had in mind.  At times He has us in the "day of small things" and at other times He wants to accomplish more than we could even dream of; however, in every season, His desire for us is to simply be faithful to whatever He calls us to do.


2.  Cry out to God for help!

God delights in helping us when we come to home in humility and utter dependence on Him.  He will give us the grace and power to accomplish what we could never do alone.  As I already stated, where we are weak and unable, He is Strong and Able!  Through relying on Him to strengthen us, we can actually become Strong in our areas of Weakness!

I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.  ~ Philippians 4:13


3.  Seek to learn from our failures.

Back to Jesus Calling again, that entry finishes up with these words:  "This is not a path of continual success but of multiple failures.  However, each failure is followed by a growth spurt, nourished by increased reliance on Me.  Enjoy the blessedness of a victorious life, through deepening your dependence on Me."

I think we can learn something about ourselves through our failures.  Like Edison, we can learn 99 ways that don't work for us, and we will be that much closer to achieving success, especially when we are trusting God to guide us.  In every area of life, we will make mistakes, but a wise woman learns and grows from her mistakes.


4.  Make back-up plans for success.

In order to succeed, we need to have a Plan B, and possibly a Plan C, D, E and F!  ;)

Practically speaking, this means if we over sleep and don't exercise in the morning, we have a Plan B to exercise during our lunch break, or a Plan C to squeeze it in before bedtime.

If we are famished and have a pounding headache in the afternoon, and end up raiding the pantry in an attempt to feel better (like I did yesterday!), we come up with a plan to prevent that from happening the next time around.  Our plan may include eating something healthy and balanced every few hours, so we don't reach the point of being overly hungry and having our blood sugar drop.  It may also include keeping a healthy snack in our purse or vehicle to help when we are away from home (as I was when I first started feeling bad).

Another element of having a back up plan might be to establish a minimum that we will do regardless of the circumstances.  Maybe we wake up too late to do our entire workout routine, so we just perform a 5-minute routine that is better than nothing and keeps our workout habit in place.  Or, if we don't have time to read three chapters in our Bible, we can read one chapter . . . . or even a verse or two.


If we are ever to accomplish our goals, we must reach the point where we realize that something is better than nothing.  Perfection is like a mirage -- it keeps us wandering in the desert trying to reach something that doesn't exist.  The illusion of perfection prevents us from ever being refreshed by the waters of accomplishment, because we always fall short.  The crucial first step to being successful . . . and feeling successful . . . is relinquishing the idea that we have to be perfect and rejoicing over each step of faithfulness on our journey to reach our goals.



~ a repost from my archives

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