Failing Forward

Failing forward: it's a term used all too frequently these days.  Turning our mistakes into success...or maybe  just learning from what we've done in the past.  Growing, shaping, moulding.  Becoming better. Maturing. Finding wisdom.

I've done a lot of failing forward this year.  I've tried a lot of new things...and really not succeeded.  And I'm trying again and hoping to do better.  I'm hoping the past 'failures' will teach me to be slightly more successful with each new venture.  I'll cross-pollinate the learning because my mind doesn't need to be entirely compartmentalised.

During October, I decided I would have a total ban on unhealthy foods.  I generally eat reasonably well - lots of fruit and vege, brown rice and all of those other healthy foods.  I was, however, a bit concerned by the amount of 'added treats' that had creeped into my weeks so I thought I should just ban them outright.  Moderation doesn't work well for me.

What did I learn in October?  Well, firstly, it's very hard to avoid cake when you have tutorials where everyone brings delicious (read: unhealthy) snacks.  It's very hard to avoid unhealthy foods when you forget your lunch.  The number of times I hadn't brought enough food for the day, waltzed down to the cafeteria with my wallet in hand hoping to find something healthy and failed miserably.  I didn't fail healthy eating, I failed filling my stomach.  Of course, it wasn't like I really needed any more food, I just wished I'd packed some more nuts or carrots or something...and you just can't purchase that sort of food in a cafeteria.  Disappointingly, said cafeteria is in a hospital.  The healthiest options available are generally Subway (which has disappointingly few options available for a vegetarian), overpriced and unappetising sandwiches (which were almost never vegetarian) or over-sugared bircher muesli.  Suffice to say, I generally waited until I got home to make something yummy.

The other thing that really bothers me about eating out is all of the unavoidable packaging.  Actually, this also bothers me about grocery shopping.  Today, I went to the supermarket with noodles on my mind.  After spending a lot of time analysing which packet had the least amount of packaging, I ended up with two 'individual' serves inside another plastic package. None of which were recyclable.  I don't understand why this is necessary.  And...the older I get, the more I realize my parents 'ahead of the curve' former hippies has influenced my views around waste.  I sometimes fail in choosing the most environmentally friendly options available but I do try incredibly hard to be as environmentally conscientious as possible.  Cafes pop plastic covers on hot drinks before asking if you really need one. Everything comes with a plastic fork, even though I (almost) always carry my own cutlery. The list is endless and frustrating.

Back to October.  So - my month of healthy eating quickly turned into being allowed one day a week where I could eat a treat.  And then someone would want to go out for coffee. And I don't drink coffee, so I'd get hot chocolate (without marshmallows, but it's hardly healthy).  Someone would want to go out for dinner.  Finding a healthy, tasty, vegetarian option can be incredibly difficult.  A healthy, tasty, environmentally-friendly vegetarian option at that.  Seriously, next time you walk into a cafe, have a look at the display window.  How many vegetarian lunches are available?  How many of the items available are cake? Cookies? Slices? Some sort of fried thing?  It's overwhelming.  What disturbs me is that so many among us only eat at cafes and the like and they're not given the option of something healthier at an affordable cost.  Paying $8 for a sandwich is ridiculous.

So I'm trying this healthy thing again.  Having learnt from past mistakes, here's the plan:

  • Carry around my keep-cup more often - or better yet, just say no to the beverages
  • A small treat once a week is okay
  • Plan meals ahead of time - it makes buying enough food much easier
  • Tell my friends that I'd prefer the healthy options
There's not a lot on that list.  So it shouldn't be that hard, right?  Hopefully it will work.  It requires a little bit of de-training from the years living with parents who felt that dinner wasn't complete without dessert.  I can get there.  It will just require effort.

In line with my new, cliche, "body is a temple" philosophy, I am running.  I have never been a runner.  I feel that every run is failing forward.  I'm always exhausted, panting and looking like the world's most unfit human being.  The thing is, I don't care.  I'm going to be good at this.  Humans were made for running.  The fact that I suck at it is all the more reason to try harder.  I'm trying to do this 'lightfoot' step, though I'm pretty sure that is also failing. Forward. I have a fancy little iPod Nano that tells me how far I ran and how fast.  This is my gauge.  Hopefully I'll fail a little less each day.

I'm doing resistance training again.  A full-body training routine.  It makes me less sleepy.  It helps with the healthy eating.  It makes me happier.  I feel like I'm taking care of myself.  And it works really well as a study distraction.  Feeling bored? Do some sit ups. Struggling to focus? How about some squats?  It sure as heck beats the 20th cup of tea for the day.  Especially in this heat.

I'm failing forward on my reading.  Never reading as much as I want to but trying to do as much as I can. Slowly getting through Economists. Slowly reading links from Twitter.  Slowly getting through Harry Potter, en francais.  Hoping that I'll be able to get through Le Seigneur des Anneaux some time soon.  

Planning for my Ghana volunteering.  Failing with fundraising.  Trying again, in a new way.  Finding lateral ways of making this happen.

There are thousands of other things I've done where it hasn't all gone to plan.  My philosophy, though, is that it's not just failing.  Every time you try, you're succeeding just a little bit.  Maybe you don't make your own bar, maybe you don't make that of your University faculty or your parents, life partner, best friend.  But you're getting there.  You're trying.  And that counts for at least half of it.

What perfect timing for A Quai, by Yann Tiersen to start playing. You're getting somewhere, even if you don't believe it.

I'm going with the words of Einstein - the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same results.  You never fail until you stop trying. 

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