Trusting Yourself in Times of Failure

Trusting Yourself in Times of Failure

So many of us gravitate toward challenging ourselves and our status quo- The Whole 30, New Year’s resolutions, 100 pictures in 100 days, Couch to 5K, creative writing competitions, training for a race. I love getting to see people who want to better themselves preparing to accomplish a new thing or hit a new goal. There’s something inspiring about being around other people who are plotting their next achievement.


A pretty major defining part of a challenge is that it’s hard. We are confronted by parts of ourselves that don’t think we can finish or maintain, parts of ourselves that are afraid of being uncomfortable. We get overwhelmed or don’t see results as fast as we want them, or we lose steam or skip a day/week/month, and we give up and forget about our goals.


This is why we’re encouraged to participate in group challenges and tell other people about our goals. We need each other for support, to hold one another accountable, especially when the going gets tough.


And even then it’s still so easy to slip out of the new routine we’ve created. Little by little or all at once, we find ourselves letting go of progress. We feel defeated, and we berate ourselves for failing to accomplish another goal. We make excuses. Sometimes we punish ourselves. Sometimes we let ourselves off the hook.


But we have another option. There’s another opportunity available to us that doesn’t involve making excuses or punishing ourselves or letting ourselves off the hook. We can begin again.


Sometimes we’ll need to reassess so that we can begin again. It will be hard for us to keep up with the goals we’ve set for ourselves if they’re too advanced for our current skill set or if we’re not listening to ourselves. When we embark on a challenge, we’ll be more successful if we are honest with ourselves and start where we are, not where we wish we were. It’s critical that we listen to ourselves and go back to the drawing board if something isn’t working for us.


Beginning again is an essential ingredient to meeting a challenge. There will, of course, be days where we don’t feel like going for the run, eating the clean meal, sitting down to meditate, going to our wellness appointment, reading the articles, writing the articles. There will be days where we do feel like it, but something prevents us from sticking to the plan. We will have to begin again.


There will be times when we are in the middle of a run or a mediation or a meal or a plan and know that we’re phoning it in or not fully present. There will be moments when our commitment falters. This is an expected and built-in part of any challenge. We’re allowed to struggle and we will. We can accept it and begin again. (Some days, I begin again 25 times during a run. I’ve begun again countless times during meditations.)


We can practice a “begin again” mindset with any challenge, including the daily challenges of life and being a person. We can apply it to driving when we discover our feathers have been ruffled by our fellow road warriors. We can begin again when we’re in the middle of a disagreement with someone, and we don’t like how we’re acting. We can begin again at work.


We can make it as momentous or pedestrian as we want. We don’t have to go anywhere or close our eyes or have a special ritual. It can be as simple as taking a breath and beginning again.


Beginning again marks its own challenge. Play around with it and see what works for you. Be curious about when it seems to be easier and when it’s harder.


Love and Be Loved,



I am a licensed mental health professional serving Portland, OR. 97205.

What Failure Really Means

What Failure Really Means

No one likes to fail. It’s disappointing and, depending on what failed, is accompanied by various negative emotions. And there are just countless ways in which we can fail, aren’t there? We fail in relationship, flunk out of school, and fail at our jobs or in our careers. We can fail board exams, sobriety tests, and physical exams. Really, at every turn, there is an opportunity to fail. Life can start to feel pretty daunting… depending on how we value failure.

Failure means different things to different people. To some of us, it might mean we’re not good enough or that we didn’t try hard enough. To others, it might mean something is wrong with us. However, we look at it, under these assumptions failure is something to be ashamed of.

There’s another way to understand failure. We can look to it as a teacher. If we fail, it means we tried something. We put ourselves out there and took a risk. Maybe the failure is there to tell us what doesn’t work. Maybe it means we should try it a different way or at a different time or using alternative components.

We’re going to fail. It’s inevitable. If we try enough things, we’re going to fail. It’s part of living. The healthier our relationship with failure, the more useful it will be to us and the easier it will be to manage.

So, how do we do it? How do we become more open to the negative or uncomfortable experiences that are a part of the journey of accomplishing our goals?

It’s helpful if we have a growth or “challenge” mindset versus fixed or “threat” mindset. With a growth mindset, we view things as experiments. Everything is a teachable moment. With a fixed mindset our beliefs are absolute, impermeable to change, and everything is a threat. We’re much more insecure and defensive in a fixed mindset. The first step, then, is to try to talk ourselves through an endeavor or a failure as though it’s an experiment… because it is.

A helpful way to become more psychologically flexible is to access our curiosity. “What didn’t work? Why? What should I try next?” The more we move toward curiosity and away from self-judgment, the less we will view failure as an exhibition of our lack of worth and the more inclined we will be to make the necessary changes.

We’ll spend less time ruminating, hiding, and avoiding and more time learning about what we need to do to fix the problem. We will increase our emotional resilience.

Most of us know we need to make improvements, but we start to lose the value of that knowledge when we take failure personally. Taking a position of curiosity will help us get closer to our goals.

It takes courage to fail. It takes courage to be open to the lessons failure has to teach. It’s common for us to avoid trying so that we can avoid the discomfort it brings. It’s common for us to experience failure and let it define us instead of gathering the information, reassessing it, and bouncing back for another experiment. Hiding from avoiding failure is a great way to teach ourselves to become more fearful of failure. It’s an effective way to clip our own wings and make sure we stay stuck.

But if we let it, failure can mean that we have the courage, strength, and resolve to try something again and again, that we are unstoppable champions of our goals.


Love and Be Loved,

Motivate Yourself from Stuck to Successful

Motivate Yourself from Stuck to Successful

There are a lot of different aspects of our lives in which we can feel that we have fallen into a rut. We can go through periods during which time we feel like a relationship is in a ditch, our job is humdrum, we can’t budge a project we’ve been working on, or we feel like we’re in a general funk.

We start to say things like, “I’m stuck,” “I don’t know what I can do,” and “I’m running out of options.” We feel desperate, frustrated, and anxious. This can be a bit of a rabbit hole, and we find ourselves in the dark without a light.

So, what do we do next? How can we step out of this rut and get back on track?

First, clarify your goals. Write down what you want your outcome to look like. This can be anything from “I want to like my job,” to “I want to have a satisfying relationship,” to “I want to produce a product of which I’m proud”. The goal can start out abstract or concrete.

Second, ask yourself a few questions:
a) Why is this goal important to you?
b) What will be made possible for you if you achieve your goal?
c) What is at stake if you don’t achieve your goal?
d) What will you have to give up to achieve your goal?
e) What would have to be true for you to achieve your goal?

Here is an example of how to use these questions. Let’s say you have identified a goal to run a marathon. It is important to you because you want to feel that sense of accomplishment and because you want to see how far you can push yourself. What will be made possible by running a marathon is a new sense of your abilities and a deeper understanding of how you work. What’s at stake if you don’t achieve this goal is the feeling of a lack of discipline, inexperience of your abilities, and reinforcing the belief that you can’t accomplish a goal you set for yourself. What you will have to give up to achieve your goal is some of your free time which you will spend training and the freedom to eat whatever you want whenever you want because you will need to take excellent care of your body. What will have to be true for you to achieve this goal is that you are committed to your goal and yourself, that you are going to train even when you don’t feel like it, and that you are going to eat a healthy diet.

Third, break down your starting goal into smaller goals to be met within shorter time periods. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by a goal. The more intimidated you are, the less likely you are to feel confident about achieving your goal. Figure out smaller versions of achievement within the same big picture. About the marathon example, you might set a smaller goal of eating one healthy meal today/ running two miles today after work- something that you need to do to help get you achieve your goal, practice your self-discipline, and that feels doable.

Fourth, anticipate obstacles so that you don’t use them as excuses. Every path to a goal contains obstacles. There will be times when you have to be more flexible within the parameters you have set. There will be times when the person who wants to run a marathon gets sick, has to take a few days off from training, and must motivate to get back on track. You know that accomplishing something can be hard- you’ve been in a rut! You also know that there will be days when you’ll feel less motivated, experience discouragement by something that doesn’t go your way, and doubt yourself in various ways. None of this means that you’re on the wrong path or that you won’t/can’t achieve your goal. It means that you have to build up to it, be persistent for yourself, and think of the obstacles as valuable lessons.

Fifth, remind yourself of accomplishments past and present. You have faced obstacles and hardship on your way to these accomplishments. You can do it again. Remind yourself of what it took for you to achieve prior goals.

Sixth, keep yourself on track by regularly reviewing your goal. Orient yourself to your current progress, where it needs to be, and what else you can do to improve your progress. This will also help to validate how far you’ve come.

Try out these steps with a small goal and see how rewarding your effectiveness feels. This will whet your appetite to apply it to more complex goals. Now, go out and conquer!

Love and Be Loved,

What to Do When You Feel Stuck

What to Do When You Feel Stuck

I hear the words “I feel stuck,” multiple times a day. This phrase is uttered by clients, friends, family, and by people, I don’t know who are simply passing by. Sometimes these words are accompanied by fear and anxiety, other times by hopelessness and desperation, and sometimes, mild frustration. It’s clear that people are experiencing at least some portion of their lives as being lived under duress.

Most of us don’t readily see the choices available to us. (If we did, we probably wouldn’t feel stuck quite so often.) We feel confused by our feelings, and we begin to take long detours down the road of overwhelming despair. Feelings of guilt and shame make a lot of appearances here.

Feeling stuck can manifest in any aspect of our lives. The top categories most of us report a feeling of being stuck are in their jobs, relationships, in various behavioral patterns, in a feeling, financially, and in particular thought processes. We no longer experience as much enjoyment and whatever it was that drew us to these things in the first place, and we become preoccupied with our discomfort and unhappiness. And then, from there, it just feels like things get worse.

So, how do we regain sight of our choices? Well, we’ve lost site of our awareness. We’ll have to take some steps to reconnect ourselves to it so that we can move beyond knowing the feelings of “I feel stuck,” toward why we feel this and start strategizing solutions.

The first step toward reconnecting ourselves to this basic awareness is establishing our objective. What do we want? The objective can begin as something as broad as “to feel better” or “to feel unstuck,” though this is not where we will leave it. Gather as much information about the situation as possible and organize it. Find out the components that make up what we are dealing with, why, the roles of said components, and their importance. Prioritize these components.

The second step is to come up with actions, which meet our objectives. How will we get there? What will need to happen first, second, third, etc.? Taking what the first step produced; things like, what we want our situation to eventually look like, what we can control versus what we can’t. This will help us to gain perspective about the best way to achieve what we want.

The third step is to evaluate our chosen actions for potential consequences, both positive and negative. By taking this step, we can allow ourselves to become more aware of our motivations, the intricacies of our situation, and think critically about the strategies best suited for us. It provides forethought.

Once we see the choices available and the steps we can take toward making a change, we start to feel less stuck. We begin to experience our power. Sometimes we realize we don’t want to make the change at all. Other times, we recognize patterns never-before-seen patterns, and we begin to address those. We stop seeing ourselves as helpless and start to move into our capability.

Love and Be Loved,