Earlier this year, I experienced some health challenges that made it difficult to operate at my normal capacity. I found myself at the end of each day, frustrated and angry at myself for failing to do what I should have done.
One night, I lay in bed, berating myself again. I didn’t clean the shower today. I didn’t play any educational games with the twins. I didn’t cook a healthy organic dinner. I didn’t make a homemade love note for my husband. I didn’t text my daughter. I didn’t… I didn’t… The list went on and on and suddenly I couldn’t take it anymore. I literally yelled, “Stop!” at myself. And then I lay quietly for a minute.
And in that quiet space, I had a thought. Stop listing your failures. Start listing your successes. I scoffed. Did I have any successes that day?
Well, somewhat sarcastically, I thought, I did get out of bed. Though, when you don’t really feel well enough to get out of bed, that is actually a success.
OK, I said to myself. I got out of bed. And then I began to list more. I got a shower AND washed my hair. I got a load of laundry done. I cleaned the bathroom mirrors and sinks. I took the twins to the park. I texted a friend for her birthday. I made dinner for the family…
And on I went. By the time I was done, I had a pretty substantial list. I was amazed. My day was not a complete failure. The truth of it was, I had accomplished far more than I had realized, even in the midst of not feeling well.
And for the first time in a very long time, I fell asleep peacefully.
Until the next morning.
As was my habit, I lay in bed thinking of all of the things I should do that day.
I should plan a week-long educational curriculum for the twins. I should re-do my meal plan. I should make capsule wardrobes for the whole family. I should…
And as was my habit, I got completely overwhelmed. And again, I yelled, “Stop!” at myself. Then I lay quietly for a minute. And in that quiet space, I had a another thought.
Considering your current circumstances, what is reasonable to do today?
And I took that bar—you know, that impossibly high bar that we set way up in the air for ourselves—and I lowered it. I brought it down to a human level. I brought it down to a woman-who-is-not-well-and-doing-her-best level. I stopped setting myself up for certain failure. I thought about my day and planned a realistic list of things I thought I could accomplish, based on my circumstances and what I felt was most important.
And do you know what? Instead of feeling like a failure for not accomplishing Herculean tasks that day, I felt the peace of knowing that I was doing what was best for myself and my family.
Those are my new secret weapons against feeling like a failure. First thing each morning, I consider my circumstances and determine what is realistic for me to do that day. Second, at the end of the day, I list to myself all of the things I did accomplish that day—from the very small, to the sometimes big. And I feel the peace of knowing that I am not a failure. Actually, I am a success.
QUESTION: Do you have a method to improve your mood when you’re feeling down on yourself? What do you do to change your perspective to think about your successes instead of your failures?
CHALLENGE: This week, try out the two techniques from this article. Each morning, think about the things you’d like to do and make a reasonable list for the day. Then at the end of the day, think about all of the things you did do.