My Most Recent Failures and What I’ve Learned

By Leo Babauta

Recently I read an old post about why another blogger doesn’t like Zen Habits, and it centered around the idea that she thought I was preaching to readers as if I’m perfect. And I thought to myself, “Boy, I hope people don’t think I’m perfect!”

Because the truth is, I’m far from it. I have problems like everyone else. I struggle with productivity and procrastination and losing weight and losing my patience and everything else, just like you do.

So I’ve decided to share some of my struggles and failures, just to dispell the myth that I’m perfect. As I said in my story almost two years ago (I really should update that), I’m just a regular guy, trying to improve my life and enjoy life, just like everyone else.

Here are a few things I’ve been struggling with lately, just to put your mind at ease:

  1. Junk food. I’ve actually been eating pretty healthy lately, but almost every day I cheat a little from my diet (more of a meal plan than a “diet”). I’ll have a sweet treat, some of my kids’ french fries, some pizza, or something along those lines. I don’t drink soda, I rarely eat grains these days, and I eat almost all whole food with lots of protein and fruits and veggies … but not all the time. I cheat. What I learned: Junk food is a habit, just as hard to break as cigarettes or alcohol. I will either have to go cold turkey and quit the habit, just like I did with smoking, or accept it as a part of my life.
  2. Procrastination. While I tend to get the important stuff done, there have been a couple of projects I’ve pushed to the back burner, even though I really want to do them. I just get busy, and lazy, and my life has other priorities (getting in shape and spending time with my family foremost among them). So things have been pushed on the back burner, and I feel guilty. What I learned: First, don’t stress about it. You can’t do everything — you’ve got to prioritize, which I’ve done. So don’t stress those things that don’t get done — you’ll never have a day when everything on your list is done. Second, I find it useful when I clear my schedule and focus on a project for a day. I did this recently with an ebook and got a lot done.
  3. Patience. I generally try to be a pretty patient person and a patient father. But I admit I fail often. Having six kids is a lot of fun and extremely rewarding, but can be a bit of a test at times. I sometimes lose my patience. OK, almost every day. And I’ll yell, and feel guilty about it afterwards. What I learned: well, I haven’t conquered this one yet, so I can’t claim to know how to do it. But I have accepted a couple things. First, I’m not a perfect parent and I don’t know if such a parent exists. We do our best, and what’s more important than our failures is that we care and we try. Second, my kids are not perfect either, and if I can accept my imperfections, I have to accept theirs too. Put myself in their place, and understand why they fail. Empathize.
  4. Online reading. I tend to get really interested in a topic and will spend days reading about it, often online, devouring every article I can find on the subject. Recently, I confess that I’ve been on a fitness reading binge. Seriously, if you added up the amount of time I’ve spent in the last month reading fitness blogs and magazines (online), it would amount to days. Not just a couple days either. A bunch of days. Just a few of my favs: Mark’s Daily Apple, Crossfit (including forums), Ross Training, the IF Life, Stronglifts, Fitness Black Book, Mizfit Online, Men’s Health, Runner’s World, Go Healthy Go Fit, Lean & Hungry Fitness, Fat Man Unleashed, Zen To Fitness, Modern Forager, Turbulence Training, TriHardist … actually I could go on all day but you get my point. What I learned: Actually, a whole lot about fitness! :) But I’ve also learned to prioritize my time, so that I get the important stuff done first and then get to my reading later.

These aren’t the only failures I’ve had but they’re probably my most recent ones. And I don’t think you’d want a catalog of my life’s failures (how much time do you have anyway?) … I just wanted to point out that I fail, just like everyone. I struggle with motivation and habit changes. I am imperfect.

And yet, like many of you, I have made progress with these struggles. I learn from my failures and do better the next time. I have had many successes, and those have been wonderful. I succeed despite (or perhaps because of) these failures, with small incremental changes, by celebrating my successes and keeping a positive attitude, by loving the journey.

And I know that my imperfections make me who I am. I try not to beat myself up too much, and feel good about the good things in me. Because there are many good things in me: I am caring, I am kind, I am passionate, I am (fairly) intelligent, and also I have a nice butt. Well, that last one is according to my wife. :)