Effort, Perseverance, and Self-Reward

January 1

Since I was 21 years old, every December 31st, I've taken part in my own hallowed NYE ritual. I pour myself a glass of wine (Malbec, this year), I light a candle (almond scented this year), and I sit on my oh-so-comfy couch and read over the list of goals I made the previous year that I wanted to accomplish in the New Year. I then assess and evaluate my results and when it's time to look at what I fell short on carrying over the proverbial end-of-the year finish line, let's just say I certainly am happy to have a glass of wine in hand! That's actually tongue-in-cheek for what I'm trying to add levity to is that, in the past, I was pretty hard on myself and would end up discouraged and feeling stuck over the goals I didn't meet. I would sit with the disappointment and then, after some soul searching I'd shake it off and start a new list of goals for the coming year. This definitely set me up with a mixed bag of emotions to start out the New Year. Last night was different…

This past year, I became aware of the importance, and power, in acknowledging ones' efforts and perseverance. It is essential when evaluating our performance in reaching a goal to also take the time to appraise and acknowledge our efforts and perseverance, as well as our record of self-rewards along the way. This is especially true when we fall short of our intended result.

We're all smart enough to know that often when telling ourselves we 'tried' it's just a big fat excuse for not getting the job done; but that's not what I am referring to here. I'm talking about when we work hard and diligently, and we persevere, and we make monumental efforts to gain ground, and yet still fall short of our goal. Instead of focusing only on the end result and feeling discouraged and disappointed by it, mind-body experts Fred Luskin PhD, and Kenneth R. Pelletier, PhD offer an alternative lens through which to view these situations.

"Sometimes it's enough simply to try hard. Sometimes our skill is perseverance. Sometimes the simple act of not giving up is both a skill and a virtue. We can be good at trying, and if we are, we need to honor our effort."

In light of this approach, I added two new steps to last night's NYE ritual. It went like this: (1) glass of wine, (2) lighted candle, (3) oh-so-comfy couch, (4) read over list of current years goals, (5) reflect on accomplishments and results, (6) wince 'slightly' over what I didn't manage to bring to fruition (come on, I'm human, can't do away with all the wincing!), new step (7) honor the efforts I made – as well as the perseverance I showed, and new step (8) reward myself for a job well done – especially those goals that are still in process.

I wasn't surprised last night when the disappointment I've felt in previous years over unfinished business didn't show up for the party. Under strong personal scrutiny I realized that I had done my very best and that some goals just take longer to reach. Feeling empowered, and excited, about starting a brand new year, I confidently added the 'not quite there yet' goals from 2014 to my list for 2015 – to be continued!

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