Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Funny Thing About Failure: the Clock is Ticking

In My 13 Commandments, I listed Commandment #8: It is part of life's learning experience to fail - what is failure anyway? It is so easy for me to give my opinion: failure gives me the opportunity to pass, and with stronger conviction. 

Whenever I talk about failure, I always start with the analogy of giving out trophies at the end of a child's losing season. I go back and forth with this idea, because I am sure if it was my child, I would want him/her to have a trophy. But if they got a trophy every year, what would they strive for the next? Shouldn't they earn the reward ? Shouldn't I instill in them the principle that 'losing' will make them winners? That the winners who got trophies did what they needed to earn the trophy? Shouldn't I teach that them that even when they do their best, sometimes the best reward is knowing that they did their best?  Is it better to highlight that some people are better at doing some things than others, and that all of God's children have different talents and abilities and we should celebrate the talents of others?

Then I think about how many times inventors have to fail before they get a winning product. Their failure to get it the first time probably motivates them to keep going. I found this other great article that highlights failure (specifically as it relates to education - my passion) Gently Hew Stone: A Lack of Failure in Schools. My favorite quote is, "...failure is good for us because it’s a strong teacher, and American kids today don’t get to experience it enough because they’re bubble-wrapped through life."

Some of us were discussing 'failure' and one of my co-workers said, "Yes, I understand your point about not entitling our children with rewards for failing to meet certain qualifications, but what if they are really doing their best? How hard is it to explain this to a 5 year old?" I laughed because amidst my argument I realized something. I pointed at myself and said, "How hard is it to explain that to a stubborn 31 year old?" I thought about the last time I failed at something. 

This past weekend, I was helping set up for a friends wedding. There was a woman who we deemed as the "Project Manager" because she had a vision as to what she wanted this reception to look like. Our goal was to make this pinterest-ready! Our "Project Manager" was the creative genius behind the celebration. Having known her for 2 minutes, I could tell that the best thing for me to do was obey rather than brainstorm because there wasn't any time and the idea-pitching was over - it was time to implement. I decided to mind her and let her tell me what to do. 

I was responsible for tying tulle to the backs of chairs and tiki posts. Tying is not my best skill. Honestly, I struggle with my shoe laces, but I did it. After completing 10, the Project Manager turned to some her daughter was tying and said, "Look at my daughter's. Hers are better. They are tighter." That was all she said.

The first thing that came to my head was "Look lady, I am VOLUNTEERING to be here. I could go home right now if I wanted, and you would have to tie these by yourself. You should be glad I am even here." The second thing I thought was "Really, you couldn't have found a better way to say it? You could have said 'Hey, could you re-tie them tighter to look more like those over there?' Instead what you said was stabbing. You are just being particular and bossy." 

I quickly started untying all of the ones I did, trying to figure out the best way to not get angry or mean. I had to step away from the situation and breathe. I had to realize she wasn't trying to be insulting, but had a preference for what she wanted. Perhaps she was disappointed, but who cares...if she was, then all I had to do was fix the issue, and if she still didn't like it, at least I would know I tried my best. Instead of leaving, like I wanted to, I went over to her daughter and had her explain to me and show me how she was tying so I could improve the tulle I was responsible for. I re-tied all the tulle to match, and went along with other tasks. It still irked me, but I stayed and I continued to work without complaint, and that was a huge improvement in behavior.

I then remembered my 8th commandment about failure. When it comes to failure, I am not graceful. I don't like feeling like I am disappointing anyone, because I am so easily disappointed in myself. Being told I am not doing enough, or I am not good enough or the work I am doing isn't good enough, sends me down this spiral of unhappiness that I combat all the time. This is why I often run faster then I have strength...because I don't want to fail - I don't want to disappoint. I believe the reason behind my approach to "success" and "failure" is innate, and I also know that I can overcome my reaction to it, which is why I have to constantly remind myself that in order to grow I have to fail. 

I also know that my perception of what was said in this particular instance, influenced my behavior. I thought she was attacking ME by attacking my work. Nope, she wasn't. Just like a person who trips and falls is the only one who remembers it 10 minutes later, I too remembered the comment for hours. I don't know why it lingered with me so much, but I had to overcome that too.

It was important that in this and in other situations, I ask myself: did I REALLY fail by not tying the tulle right the first time? Is it really failure if I lose a soccer game and don't get a trophy? Just because I didn't pass my exam the first two times, does it mean I am not capable of being an effective program manager? What is failure really?

In the article Never Give Up by President Monson, he states, "In our journey on earth, we discover that life is made up of challenges—they just differ from one person to another. We are success-oriented, striving to become “wonder women” and “super men.” Any hint of failure can cause panic, even despair. Who among us cannot remember moments of failure?"

He continues, "Our responsibility is to rise from mediocrity to competence, from failure to achievement. Our task is to become our best selves. One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the joy of trying again, for no failure ever need be final."

Failure exists. Failure exists when we don't do our best. Failure exists when we compromise our personal integrity and morals. Failure happens when we don't follow Christ. So, in a way, my thoughts in the circumstance mentioned above were a failure to what I know to be right. Failure is letting the natural man take over our Godly and divine propensities. In this circumstance, I was caught between my natural-triggered emotion and the emotion of how to turn this circumstance into something I could learn from.

I have put off the next steps for the Happiness Project because I am afraid to fail. I am afraid to make commitments I might not be able to keep. This barrier is preventing me from growing. It is time I took a better look at commandment #8. I fail when I don't do my best. Why put off happiness because I am afraid of failure? Failure will make me better. The clock is ticking.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Commandments Are Absolute

This morning I was late getting out the door, gave my semi-sleeping  sweetheart a harsh goodbye when I left due to some confusion over house keys, and ran out of the apartment. I felt that my response to him was harsh. From past experience, I know that when I start my morning off in a rushed way, the rest of my day feels rushed. I also don't like feeling that I have upset my sweetheart. 

On the bus, my briefcase - that is more like a suitcase - flew across the bus floor and tackled this woman's feet. My first reaction was shock. I couldn't believe how far that briefcase went! The second thing I felt was embarrassment, followed quickly by remorse, as I am sure it damaged her body somehow. I looked up apologetically at the woman, feeling guilty. She was wearing sandals and glared back at me rubbing her foot. Then I was upset. 

Didn't she know that I had strategically moved my bag under the seat in front of me so that it wouldn't block the walking aisle? I put a lot of thought into where I placed my bag. In fact, after running out of the house, and upon noticing that the bus had turned the corner where my bus stop was, I had to run super fast to catch him at the next stop (running and I don't get along). I ended up throwing out my back to catch the bus, only to see that the bus didn't have the kinds of seats that were conducive to me putting my bag under me. I even thought about sitting sideways so my bag wouldn't be in another person's way, but decided I didn't want to be sick this morning. With all this explanation, couldn't this resentful woman see that I wasn't purposefully trying to attack her? I automatically snapped in my head thinking "Oh, did the accidental slippage of my briefcase inconvenience you?" I was appalled at my immediate thought and lack of tact. 

Thank goodness, I didn't say anything out loud. I took a quick inventory of my behavior this morning. What was my deal? First my sweetheart, and then this stranger. I decided that I was a terrible person, and prayed that I wouldn't be so snappy amongst other prayers to sustain me today. During the rest of the bus ride, I started recollecting a time I completely ignored this gentleman at the metro station because I was on the phone. I didn't know if he was asking for money or directions, and you know what, it wouldn't have mattered either way. He is a human being, and I should have acknowledged him when he tapped my shoulder, and called the person back. I also started thinking about all these other moments that I was a terrible person, recounting things from my childhood that made me out to be an awful person.

This whole experience this morning validated my 20-year old discovery that I am VERY hard on myself. Influences of the underworld often pervade my mind and help me on my way down this spiraling slide of LIES! AND LIES about myself and my individual worth and nature make me unhappy! Luckily, I created the 13 happiness commandments to help me combat these lies. I decided I need to print them out and keep them with me so I can refer to the them daily...and maybe I will laminate them.

As you may recall from my last post, Commandment #2, Ask, "Am I Being a Lady," Commandment #5 Don't Rehearse Unhappiness, Commandment #10 Don't Be So Hard on Yourself, Commandment #13 Everyone Has Agency Because Everyone is A Child of God, and Commandment #6 Let it Go. All these would have been super helpful this morning. The good new is, I got to them eventually, and now I can move forward with that in mind.

It is amazing what can throw us off the path of happiness, including our sometimes self-destructive weaknesses. Knowing that I can make my weaknesses become strong because of Jesus Christ helps. And if carrying around a piece of paper with my happiness commitment and commandments will help achieve this goal, I will do it!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Happiness Project: My 13 commandments

Part of the Happiness Project suggests that I come up with my own commandments; rules I can live by when I feel my happiness wavering or going under. While there are several things I do to pull out of happiness like listening to good music, talking with friends, praying, etc., the commandments are supposed to be little reminders that will help me on the happiness journey.

I had a hard time with this task because I feel like there are so many rules that I should live by. I have put this post off for at least one month because I didn't want to get it wrong. Now in writing, I realize how close I need to stick to my commandments. This attitude of failure I am talking about is a perfect example of when I should be reading and re-reading my personal commandments.

In my previous post, I mentioned that I often feel like I am a failure, and that feeling doesn't make me happy. Below I have included commandment 8, of which I have so often repeated to others as a way to help them with their perceived 'failures.' It is due time that I take my own advice....right?

And so, here is my list of commandments...and guess what? I can add to them anytime I like.

My 13 Commandments

1. It is what it is, embrace it, be grateful for it
2. Ask "Am I Being a Lady?"
3. Optimism is a force multiplier
4. By small and simple things, great things come to pass 
5. Don't rehearse unhappiness
6. Let it go
7. Be true to my God and myself
8. It is part of life's learning experience to fail - what is failure anyway?
9. Acknowledge and be OK with what I don't encompass, and what others don't encompass (borrowed from a Gretchen passage: Paradoxes of Happiness)
10. Don't be so hard on yourself
11. Remember you are of great worth 
12. All in the Lord's time
13. Everyone has agency because everyone is a child of God

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Happiness Project: What makes me feel...

Part of the investigating and assessing phase of the Happiness Project is identifying those things that don't make me feel so great, or those things that contribute to my
unhappiness. The question Gretchen poses in her toolkit is: What makes you feel bad? What brings you anger, guilt, boredom, dread? Here are those things:
  • I am not my best when I am not close to God
  • I am not my best when I don't feel close to my husband and family
  • I feel remorse, guilt and then anger when I feel like I am not doing enough
  • I often feel like a failure, and that makes me feel bad
  • I dislike not completing what I say I am going to complete - not meeting internal deadlines
  • I dislike when people don't understand what I am trying to say - it makes me feel like a failure when I feel like I am not communicating well
  • When I feel and look fat, I am disappointed in myself and therefore unhappy
  • When I compare myself to others and think "I wish I had...."
  • When I can't see where I am going in life
  • I tend to feel bad when I don't recognize God's plan for each of His children
  • I tend to feel angry and guilty when I am not getting enough exercise
  • I feel guilt when I eat crappy foods 
  • I don't feel successful when I don't check things off my list
  • When I don't understand new technology - especially new computer systems
  • When someone tries to press their opinion on me, or won't let me voice mine
  • When someone tells me how I am acting, when I disagree. Example: When someone asks me "why are you so angry?" When in actuality I have no anger. Perhaps it is because I am silent, or I am thinking about something else and have moved past the conversation. 
  • I tend to get bored with people who have a holier/better than thou attitude

I noticed that a lot of these things that make me feel bad are based around a couple of things: 

1. Perception: Above, I listed things that make me 'feel' bad. Perhaps one of my months will be based around distinguishing a realistic perspective, letting things go easier, and/or concentrating on what makes me 'feel' good instead of everything that makes me 'feel' bad. I am sure I can dedicate some time to examining what 'feeling' means, and how to better communicate what I am feeling.

2. Me, Me, Me: There are a lot of 'I's' listed. Yes, this post is intended to be self-reflective, but my take-away is that I need to get out of the 'I's' and look at the 'you's'. During one month I can concentrate on halting focus on my self interests....even though I tend to have 'happiness' issues when I forget about keeping myself healthy and strong because I focus too much on pleasing others. But aren't we supposed to lose ourselves in service to others? Something worth contemplating...

3. Your Agency, Not Mine: A lot of the items listed above are a reflection of the choices of other people. One of the hardest things for me to understand are the decisions other people make that hurt me or the people I love. Sometimes even the people I love make poor decisions that negatively impact me, which also contributes to my sadness/unhappiness. I know it is important for me to be happy, despite what decisions other people make. This could be a lifelong goal, but maybe I can think of something I can do in the meantime to overcome this challenge.

Friday, August 2, 2013


Happiness is realizing I spelled Happiness wrong in the last post, and being able to laugh and admit it instead of beating myself up over it :)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Happiness Project: Identify Your Aims

According to the Happiness Project creator, Gretchen Rubin, the first task of starting the happiness project is to "Identify Your Aims." On her blog, she has included a toolkit with the "Get Started" Section that poses the following questions:
  1. What makes you feel good? What gives you joy, energy, fun?
  2. What makes you feel bad? What brings you anger, guilt, boredom, dread?
  3. What makes you feel right? What values do you want your life to reflect?
  4. How can you build an atmosphere of growth—where you learn, explore, build, teach, help?
I thought I would tackle each of these questions - one per day. If I try to answer more, I will feel super stressed out (ooh, something I can add to the second question, but WOAH, I am getting ahead of myself).

1. What makes you feel good? What gives you joy, energy, fun?

I feel good and feel the most joy and energy when I am:
  • With my family
  • Experiencing new things with people, and being around people in general
  • Playing with and helping children
  • Discovering new places
  • Tasting and cooking new food
  • Studying and not just reading my scriptures
  • Feeling connected with my husband
  • Praying regularly 
  • Going to church, and serving in the temple
  • Organized
  • Swimming
  • Reading
  • Serving other people
  • Writing
  • Around people that motivate me
  • With people who like to have stimulating and intellectual conversation
  • Using my job-related skills to help people
  • Gardening
  • Completing a project...implementation and closure are my favorite things to do. Call me the closer baby!
  • Feeling valued
  • Watching British shows
  • With other people who have energy
  • Learning something new in a class
  • Given more responsibility
  • Listening and offering (hopefully) meaningful advice to close friends 
  • Being funny, when people laugh at my idiosyncrasies that they find endearing
These are a lot of things that make me happy, and I loved the exercise that helped me identify and put it on paper. 

Even though I haven't started the Happiness Project in full force, I started doing some other things differently that have absolutely helped me on this journey.

1. Do it now! Often times I think of people during the day, and think it would sure be nice to connect with them sometime and let them know I was thinking about them. At the moment, the thought is nice, and I can't wait to call that person when I get off work. Then the day happens, and ultimately, the good intention becomes an unrealized intention. I decided I would rather connect with people. I moved away from Utah, a place that I grew to love. More than anything, including those incredible mountains, I fell in love with those amazing people in my life. While being away isn't killing me, I miss them - bottom line (I MISS YOU!). It is the same with people I care about, my family, my besties (you know who you are), even people from my hometown. All these people have played an incredible role in my life and I want to honor them by keeping in touch.

A couple years ago, I went back to visit Sierra Vista with my family. I loved being able to see people who have touched and influenced my life on such a large scale. I was sad that we only had 2 days there, and wanted to have a party so I could catch up with everyone. The only day we would see most everyone was on Sunday at church, and you know what...all those people I care about were there to go to church. Imagine! You can certainly imagine my consternation when people didn't I was able to talk with some of them, but most I saw from a distance and that was tough. *Sigh

When we left, my parents noted that it was nice to see everyone, and how everyone is getting on with their lives and they didn't feel a particular affinity to keeping in touch, really. I asked my parents if they missed living in Sierra Vista and missed the people. They said, sure...but it wasn't something they felt like they needed to be a part of anymore. While I understand this sentiment, because they too have moved on in life, I loved so deeply reconnecting as much as I could.

Lately, I noticed that I have lost that connection with so many. While it may be darn near impossible to keep up with everyone, I want to try to reconnect anyway. Therefore when I am thinking of someone, I let them know it, NOW.

For example: Just three days ago I had a bowl of vanilla bean ice cream with round candy sprinkles. This is a favorite past time for me and my sister. We would stir our ice cream until it resembled cold, gray soup, and crunch those sprinkles until there weren't any left in our bowls. And yes, we would lick our bowls too.

As this memory pervaded my thoughts for at least one minute, I took out my phone, snapped a pic of the ice cream, and sent a text to Jamie saying "Thinking of you." And you know made me super happy!