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Acknowledging Work Done

This past year has been a year of change—a time when you have worked to incorporate what you learned in CREDO into your life. But change is not easy, and you may feel that you have failed to reach the goals you set during CREDO.

Two responses are quite common when we fail to achieve a goal:

  1. We berate ourselves and focus on our failure.
  2. We come to the conclusion that the plan or technique we used was ineffective.

Unfortunately, both responses keep us from moving forward in the positive ways that will cause lasting change.

For example, perhaps you wanted to lose 15 pounds over the next three months. When three months are nearly over, you realize you are still engaging in the same eating habits as before, and you feel no desire to give up the food you enjoy or take up a new exercise program. You may feel angry and disheartened that you have failed in your resolve, and you may find yourself discouraged with your lack of consistency and commitment.

Or perhaps you set the goal of losing 15 pounds in three months and got started right away on a particular diet. You began to see the weight dropping off and then you hit a plateau; your weight appeared to be stuck, and you couldn't seem to lose anymore. You might have decided that the diet is ineffective and began to look for another that might work better.

In both cases, there is a sense of failure rather than an acknowledgment of what has been accomplished. You are left with feelings of inadequacy—and question your ability to follow through or choose the best techniques.

Yet, in both instances, you have done good work, and this work needs to be celebrated. Acknowledging work done can lead you toward stronger motivation and deeper commitment and follow-through.

UCLA mathematician Terence Tao writes, “One of the secrets to mathematical problem solving is that one needs to place a high value on partial progress, as being a crucial stepping stone to fully solving the problem.” The same holds true for any goal we set for ourselves. If we celebrate the partial success we have made rather than give in to inner criticism about what has not been completed, we begin to see our creativity climbing and our fervor flourishing.

If you look inward, you may discover that losing 15 pounds in three months was a distraction from another issue, or you might find that you were overly ambitious in your goal, or that you weren’t ambitious enough. You may also come to the realization that it wasn’t the diet itself that was ineffective, but the way you were implementing it that contributed to less-than-expected results. With a few tweaks, you may find that you are able to fulfill the goal with joy and ease.

We sell ourselves short when we move too quickly to focusing on our failure rather than celebrating our success. Even developing the goal in the first place is a success, because the goal was born out of a reflective process intended to help us live more fully and well. We might find it more helpful, and even just a bit more exciting, to give ourselves a gold star for what we’ve done, and then take another small step that leads us to yet another success!



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