“Failure is an event, not a person. So regardless of what happens to you along the way, you must keep on going and doing the right thing in the right way. Then the event becomes a reality of a changed life.” (Zig Ziglar)
When I first read this quote I had no idea what direction to take my reflection. There have been other quotes about starts and stops, failures along the way, and the like. But this one felt personal in a different way than the others. The idea that my failures become a part of who I am and a reality of a changed life, seems more personal to me, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the idea that my past failures have become a part of my reality – the reality of my changed life.
As I got past my initial negative reaction, I began to think about it in terms of my struggle to control my weight and lead a healthy lifestyle. I have mentioned before that this is not my first time trying to get control of things. I had a well-documented weight loss back in 2000 to 2001, and I have referenced that after I started gaining again I had a few other attempts to lose weight. Last week I was going through old files on my computer, and found a total of 5 other worksheets I’d started that are similar to the one I am using now to track my weight. I put together the highlights of those files and made this graph:
I intend to call up my medical records and make the picture a bit more complete, but this graph generally shows what has happened to my weight starting on May 1, 2000 when I weighed 290 pounds, and up to June 6 2014 when I weighed 296.4. Along the way there is a steady, unmistakable climb of weight, accompanied by a few concerted efforts to lose. The casual observer will note a total of 4 attempts to lose weight since September 2001, and wonder how I mentioned 5 above. That is because the 5th attempt lasted less than one week, just enough to get a single data point along the way in 2009.
Today I have thought long and hard about this graph, and the quote from Zig Ziglar. When taken on the whole from May 2000, to June 2014, I have gained a net of 10 pounds. Most people would think that wasn’t so bad for a 14 year period. But for me it has been a roller coaster. There have been successes and failures along the way. Considering where I was at March 1 of this year, there were more failures than successes. From the first time I joined Weight Watchers in May of 2000 until that day, I had actually gained 55 pounds.
Let me be clear. There is a difference between joining Weight Watchers and actually following Weight Watchers. Any time I have followed the plan I have lost weight. I have been, and remain a believer that WW works. But, as the eccentric lady attending one of our parties in 2007 knew, “all that money Bob has spent on Weight Watchers isn’t doing him any good.” Oh, and that was when I was 40 pounds lighter than at the start of this particular journey.
My past failures, be they in weight loss, career moves, business start-ups, or anywhere else in my life, are a part of my current reality. And that is true regardless of how I may feel about it. I am who I am today not just because of my successes in life, but also because of all the times I stubbed my toe, skinned my knee and generally just fell down along the way.
When I reached that last day of February this year I was the sum total of every minute of exercise, and every bite of food I’d ever consumed. All my past successes and failures made me who I was at that point. I am now 15.5 weeks into this particular rendition of my journey. It is the longest I have gone since I lost the 72 pounds over 2000 and 2001. Wherever I end up a year, or 5 years from now, whether I succeed at this attempt or not, I will still be the sum total of all my successes and failures.
To me the important sentence in this quote is in the middle: “So regardless of what happens to you along the way, you must keep on going and doing the right thing in the right way.” That is the key in this quote for me. When I see my failures as an enrichment of who I am, and incorporate them willingly into my current reality, I give myself the opportunity to grow from them. It is when I resist the idea of failure that I set myself up for more failure in the future.
Failure is an event, but failure doesn’t define me anymore than success does. No matter how many times I may fail, I won’t ever give up. Giving up would, indeed, define me, and that is a definition I could never abide.