Who remembers my wildly successful weight loss challenge from 2015? You know, the one where I tried out a different weight loss plan each week and then blogged about all the weight I lost? Don’t bother trying to find it in the archives, by the way. I just deleted the whole series.
If you don’t remember it, don’t feel bad. Maybe you weren’t one of the 30-40 people visiting my blog each day during that time. Or maybe you don’t remember it because even though I turned my life inside out for four weeks in an effort to lose weight, I ended the challenge not even one pound lighter. What a good time that was!
I’m thinking about that series now because I’m going through a blog clean-up and deleting posts that didn’t benefit my readers. Deleting those posts caused me some serious pain. And even now, a bit of chagrin. After all, I spent six weeks on the series. In fact, I was so disheartened after the challenge that I didn’t blog again for a month. I had this vision that the challenge would benefit me personally – I would totally lose at least 10 pounds! – and on the blog – my weight loss success would bring me a ton of new readers! Instead, I failed in front of my 40 readers. And the fact that I still had only 40 readers was just salt on the wound. Salt that was apparently making me retain so much water that I couldn’t lose weight no matter how much I tried.
But the thing is, I did blog again. I spent time learning how to be a better writer. I spent more time learning how to be a better blogger. I kept going and even though I’m still far from where I want to be, I’m so much closer than I would be if I had quit when I felt like I was failing as a blogger.
It’s especially important for midlife women to remember that importance of persistence in the face of failure because midlife is a time of change. We’re aging; often in surprising and distressing ways. Our children are growing up which can also be a little surprising and distressing. Many of us are contemplating career changes.
And with change, inevitably comes failure.
It’s so easy to read articles about the benefits of failure and to nod your head in agreement, isn’t it? Yes, yes, of course, if you’re not failing at something, then you’re not thinking big enough, am I right? And I’ve read so many stories about successful women who have overcome hard times and persevered that their struggles simply seem like a plot point: here’s the part where she gets down to her last $10.00 in the bank before she finally sells her first mop. And now she’s a millionaire!
But it’s so much harder to live through a time when you tried something and failed at it. Your struggle isn’t a lesson you needed to learn or a dip in the road before you triumphantly reach your goal. You don’t know how things are going to end. This might be the dip in the road before the fall off the cliff. And the moment isn’t scary. It’s terrifying. Or heartbreaking. Or so mortifying that you just don’t ever want to surface in the real world again.
But here’s the thing that you absolutely must remember during those times. The only way to get ahead is to keep moving forward.
That’s particularly important to remember if you’re a midlife woman who is considering a change after years of doing something else. If your identity for the last twenty years has been as a mother or wife or working in a field that no longer excites you, then you’ve developed a sense a competence around that role and when you move to the next thing, you’re going to sometimes feel incompetent and lost. And you will make mistakes. How could you not? You’re doing something new.
But it’s more important than ever to start trying new and possibly scary things now. Because at midlife, whether you like it or not, change is coming. Our children are growing up and moving on and soon enough, our careers will start winding down. If we don’t also change then we’ll become stagnant and depressed.
And so here’s the thing you must remember as you go plan the next half of your life. There’s no better feeling than when you master something that was previously hard and scary. When you take a trip alone for the first time and realize how freeing it is to plan your own selfish itinerary. When you run your first 5K after years on the couch. When you learn to speak French as an adult. These are the moments we’ll be learning to savor during the coming years.
P.S. If failure wasn’t a necessary part of life, there wouldn’t be so many good quotes about it. Here are a few that I really love.