Why do people feel like they are failing when they are actually achieving so much? Never in the history of humanity have we been so highly functioning, yet we have so many people feeling like a failure, feeling depressed and anxious.
I don’t allow myself to use the word ‘failure’ because there is nothing helpful that comes from it. I’ve gone through a really tough few years, on the edge of a breakdown, battling with depression and anxiety, but thanks to that, I have worked out what makes me happy and how truly resilient we can be when pushed to the extreme.
I’ve also given myself permission to be happy – sounds silly when you write it down, but we all have a right to be happy. All of us think we should be achieving more, working harder, earning more money, going out more, seeing friends more often etc, etc, without actually allowing ourselves to be happy with what we have right now.
True happiness comes in acknowledging the things we achieve each day, taking pleasure in the small things and making plans and goals for the future. My very wise partner once said to me, “You can’t be happy all the time”, and how true that is. It struck me in that moment that I’d been striving for the wrong thing – we should be aiming to be content in life, with peaks of happiness, and hopefully only a few troughs of unhappiness, along the way. It is impossible to be happy all the time as this is not a natural state of existence!
Life for me is more challenging than I ever thought possible, but honestly, I’ve never been happier (more content!) I’ve learnt to treasure the small things, like eating my breakfast in bed whilst reading my book; having a glass of wine with my partner, talking about our week and planning for our future; watching the sunset from my bedroom window; listening to my children snore after a busy day; hanging out the washing whilst the sun shines on my back. It sounds a bit cheesy, but through the midst of all the stress, you need those moments to get you through!
And I’m slowly learning to congratulate myself on my achievements each week – even when I’m asleep at 9:30pm each night, I feel happy in simply having made it through another day. Did my children have clean clothes to wear today? Did I feed myself and my kids today? Did we get to nursery/school/work on time? Then I achieved something today!
Unfortunately, it is all too easy these days to compare ourselves to others and what others ‘have’. What I’ve learnt is that I don’t really care what others have, because those things aren’t the things that make me happy. I don’t want a high flying career; I don’t want time to go running each day; I don’t want to sit having my hair done each month. Those things make other people happy, but they aren’t for me, and that’s okay. I don’t judge others on what they choose to do with their time, I’ve just stopped wanting what other people have, choosing to focus on the things that I want in my life.
So how do we find contentment in our daily lives and a sense of achievement instead of failure?
At the end of each day, write down 3-5 things you have achieved that day. This must start with the small things – did a load of washing, made that appointment, made a home cooked meal, did some work – whether paid employment or cared for children if you’re a stay at home parent – got the kids to school on time. And then you can write down the bigger ones – went to the gym, finished an assignment, completed a project, taught your child how to do something new, called a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. When you start to write things down on paper, you’ll see how much you have actually achieved in your day!
And here’s where the change comes – each week, write down the things you would like to achieve in the next week (your goals) – small and bigger things – note, we are not calling them the things you haven’t achieved this week, just a focus for your time in the coming week. By calling them goals, instead of things we haven’t achieved yet, we remove the sense of failure.
Celebrating our achievements gives us a sense of pride, it allows us to take satisfaction in our daily life and brings meaning into the every day tasks. Setting a focus gives us a sense of purpose and direction and having smaller goals allows us the opportunity to celebrate our achievements more often. Once we get used to setting smaller goals for ourselves, we can set bigger, longer term goals and then you’ll be amazed what you can achieve!
We can all find contentment and happiness and we all deserve to – let’s get rid of failure all together.
p.s. I would highly recommend reading ‘Man’s search for meaning’ by Viktor E. Frankl – changed my whole perspective on things.