“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it—but all that had gone before.” —Jacob Riis
Once again, we are preparing to usher in a new year. In the midst of a flurry of traditions and celebrations, many are working on their list of resolutions. The list most often includes lifestyle improvements such as quitting smoking or drinking, healthier eating habits, and weight loss.
Making a list is the easy thing; getting started with the best of intentions is the next easy thing; then, when all the easy stuff has run its course, the hard part begins … sticking with our resolutions. After the original steam has evaporated, the long-term benefits of the choice we made are still floating somewhere at the edges of the mind, but they suddenly don’t seem so important any more, when compared with the immediate struggles we are facing on the journey toward our destination. Eight times out of ten, New Year resolutions die in their infancy.
Many approach their resolutions with determination, but if they trip and fall even once, they often feel that the battle is lost for one more year, and they are ready to give it up until the next January first. Imagine if babies gave up trying to walk after they fell once or even a handful of times, and they didn’t try again until they turned a year older. With each fall, their brains record the experience and work relentlessly to avoid the same obstacles; they might require several tries, and several bumps, but eventually they learn to coordinate their movements in such a way that they fall less and less. Their success does not depend on the last time they stood up and took three steps without falling, but on the countless times before, when they took one step and fell down.
We might have tried the same resolution more times than we can count on the fingers of two hands, but each time we make an attempt at conquering our goal our chances of success are greater. Surely, we might fall again, but we could also be ready to finally walk alone. And if we do fail again, it’s good to know that it wasn’t in vain.
Failing is not an excuse for giving up on trying, but an opportunity to learn what didn’t work, so we’ll have more chances to succeed when we stand up and give it another shot.