Learning from Failure: When I Bombed My Own Challenge
A few months ago I embarked on an exciting challenge – but I failed pretty thoroughly!!! I really wanted to run and hide, but I figured that wouldn’t help anyone much. Instead, I’d like to share the lessons I learned through the failure.
It all happened when my business manager, Tasha, and I were admiring how so many people track their habits or time for months or years on end. Even if they aren’t doing each desired habit every single day, the discipline required to simply track those things daily for long periods of time is quite impressive.
Feeling super inspired we put together a challenge for ourselves in one afternoon (complete with a pretty printable, of course). We got all excited and shared all about it with our friends on Instagram.
We challenged ourselves to each track 10 habits for 90 days. We brainstormed, came up with a list of potential habits, then narrowed it down to 10. Then I created the printable, and we each filled it out.
You can get the printable for yourself below if you’d like.
And we were off. The first month or so went great for each of us, but then the challenge completely fell off the rails!!! We both traveled, missed 2-3 days in a row, and could barely even remember whether or not we’d done our habits. We agreed together to end our challenge early, but I sheepishly didn’t say anything about it on social media. I was too embarrassed!!!
But I want to be honest and transparent with you all. Sometimes I try things that work out amazingly, and other things fail. Even in failure, there is so much to learn. I also want to say that I truly believe a challenge like this can be done successfully, and I might even try again someday incorporating the lessons that I’ve learned.
Here’s why I think it didn’t work this time:
1 – I tried to change too many things at once.
We focused on ten items to track throughout the challenge. That was too much all at once. It’s much more effective to pick 1 or 2 things and make those a habit before adding more. It became a bit overwhelming and even hard to remember throughout the day all the different things I was supposed to do.
2 – Some of my goals weren’t deeply connected to my why.
My next mistake was setting goals that weren’t as important to me. Instead of sitting down and thinking about the heart and why behind the changes I wanted to make, I was trying to pick out 10 habits to track. I really had it backward. I started with making up an arbitrary number instead of thinking FIRST about the outcome I wanted to achieve and picking things that would help me get there. This step is so important and is something we talk about a lot in my new course, the Domino Effect.
3 – I set myself up for failure by starting with a goal that is too long.
I do regularly track 5-6 habits most months in my Sweet Life Planner, so I’m not completely new to doing that. However, I don’t know that I’ve ever tracked 10, and I’ve only done it for 31 day periods. Therefore, jumping up to 10 and tripling the timeframe was too big of a jump. I should have probably done 45 days or possibly 60, but no more. The idea is that the timeframe should stretch you but not overwhelm you.
4 – My habits didn’t allow me to see results quickly.
The particular habits I chose to track were things that didn’t allow me to see actual life-changing results. When I say life changing, I don’t mean that the results need to be dramatic – even something as simple as waking up to a clean kitchen when you’re not used to that can be life-changing.
When we’re trying to make hard changes, we need to see some positive results. It would have been better if I had chosen habits that were more connected to each other (so they would all work together and add up to big results).
Seeing results is one of the biggest motivators to keep going.
5 – I wasn’t using accountability correctly.
This one is subtle but oh-so-important. Accountability is a super powerful tool, but only when we use it well. I was only pretending to be accountable.
I was sharing all about the challenge on Instagram, but it was on my terms. I didn’t actually commit to how often I was going to check in. That’s a big no-no in the accountability world because usually, we fail to check in when we need it MOST – when we’re struggling and starting to slip. I should have stated exactly when and how often I was going to check in. That way people would be expecting to hear from me about how I was doing, and I would have to face it – even during the times that I was struggling more.
Tasha and I were also doing the challenge together which could have added a huge layer of accountability, but we made the mistake I did on social media. We didn’t commit to how often we were going to check in, and we did not reach out to the other person when we didn’t hear from them in a while. To be a good accountability buddy, you MUST reach out to the person when you don’t hear from them.
If you want to make changes in your life, I highly encourage to use accountability well. There’s a whole lesson in my upcoming course, The Domino Effect, all about how accountability.
6 – I didn’t love the tracker.
I feel really silly even admitting this (and I almost left this out because of how trivial it seems), but I think some of you may be able to relate. I loved the printable I created for this challenge. It was super fun and cute. However, I was trying to color in a little square on my grid each time I did the habit. It was actually really hard to get the entire square fully colored in and stay in the invisible “lines.” The fact that it looked a little sloppy really bothered me.
Again, some of you may think I’m being ridiculous, but this stuff really matters. Filling in those boxes is supposed to be a little reward in and of itself, so you need to really love it. There would have been lots of ways to solve this. I could have made little circles (or even checkboxes) and used checkmarks like I often do in my monthly trackers in my planner.
I could have used the small circle stickers from our functional sticker pack in each box instead of coloring in the squares. Or I could have used a thicker highlighter so coloring in the boxes would be easier.
Do What Works for You
The point is, do what works for you. If you really don’t care how precise your boxes are, then go for it!!!! If that’s important to you, that’s okay too.
These are great lessons learned! While you may not have personally succeeded in completing the challenge, the takeaways here probably have more value for your readers than if you had made it all the way through. Kudos for the attempt and the sharing.
Tasha Whitsitt Says
Thanks – all of us have ups and downs in life. And yes, learning from our failures is turning them into successes!
I started tracking habits at the beginning of 2019, and have stuck with it each month so far. I started with 5 habits in January, tweaked a few of them, then added 2 more in February and 2 more in April. I do use a separate sheet each month so I just make a little line in the box, then tally them up and add them to a yearlong spreadsheet. (I was going to say that your printable looks waay too not-user-friendly, which you also realized.)
I also thought it was valuable to re-evaluate after a month. For instance, I’d originally put “go to bed by 11:30” as a daily goal, but after that happened *once* in January, I changed it to “go to bed by midnight”, which is more realistic. A couple of other habits needed similar tweaking or better definitions, and I put the sheet where I can easily see it, so I remember to fill it out.
Tasha Whitsitt Says
Those are great tips. Thank you so much for sharing. I love that you re-evaluated after a month and then adjusted!