Missing Targets with FA: I Don’t Allow Failure to Derail My Life

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by Sean Baumstark |

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Have you ever done something from which you thought you couldn’t turn back or move forward? Have you made a huge mistake that you believed had irrevocably messed up your life? What about a minor blunder that caused you to “fall off the wagon?” Maybe it was a big deal or perhaps it was something small and insignificant.

I’m sure that we’ve all been there. Just think about your most recent New Year’s resolutions or the goals you set out to accomplish in 2019. You may have nailed your new habit in the first few days or weeks. If you’re anything like me, you plan your new routine well, and at the outset, it seems manageable. Planning is the easy part though; executing is where the rubber meets the road.

Sometimes my plans are derailed by a little wind or hit by a tornado. Then my rest suffers because I stay up late to complete a project. The following day, I’m too tired for a scheduled dinner with a friend after work. As I play catch-up, I decide to skip a session at the gym, which often leads to missing the next three or more workouts.

In the past, when I’ve tried to compensate for lost time, I’ve sacrificed my leisure hours in the following order: rest, social plans, the gym, chores, and so on. Thankfully, over the last few months, I have become more gracious toward myself. I now give myself permission to recalibrate or reprioritize as often as necessary.

I am grateful for my recent realization that one bad choice doesn’t have to escalate into 10, 20, or 100 poor decisions. One missed target doesn’t mean I have to give up on all of my goals. One skipped session at the gym doesn’t make me a sloth. Instead, a failure or a missed goal is an opportunity to reevaluate my abilities and the demands I have placed upon myself — and most importantly, a chance to rethink my expectations.

With this in mind, I can make adjustments and design new plans that are more realistic and effective overall.

Some decades-old advice from a mentor that has stuck with me addresses the idea of reacting to failure. It’s helpful to treat a missed target as you would a neglected workout or a skipped meal. If you miss one hour of gym time today, two hours tomorrow doesn’t redress the balance. The same is true for meals. When I skip breakfast I’m hungry come lunchtime and I may eat a little more than usual. But I never eat two full meals at once to “make up” for my skipped breakfast.

Instead, I make the adjustments that I need now to have the impact that I’ll want later. So, perhaps my lunch is a little bigger and I spend a few extra minutes at the gym. However, the past is behind me, and no matter how much I eat or how long I work out, it can’t be changed. I focus on the present and ask myself, “What can I do right now to ensure the outcome that I want?”

I have made plenty of poor choices and bad decisions. Some have been life-altering, while others have seemed insignificant on the surface. You can hear more about my journey on the podcast that I co-host.

At the end of each day, I won’t allow one missed target to turn into 10. I am gracious toward myself, allowing space to regroup, rethink, and replan when necessary — this is particularly important when there’s a progressive condition in the mix. I don’t know when or how my disease might pick up its pace. If I don’t permit myself to adjust as I go, I’ll be immobilized by failure long before Friedreich’s ataxia incapacitates me.

If you’re facing failure in your life, whether it’s big or small, I encourage you to be kind and gracious to yourself. I urge you to pick up from where you are now and move forward.

There is no good excuse for letting one failure snowball into a hundred more.


Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


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