by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.

Why bother making new year’s resolutions? After all, the odds are that you’ll fail to achieve them.

According to Self Magazine, 39% of women and 32% of men will make new year’s resolutions and almost twice those numbers will indeed break them after a month.

How you answer a single question could hold the key to actually accomplishing your new year’s resolutions or true desires.

Imagine a Christmas gift.

I bought it for my future son-in-law who had just graduated from college and was beginning his career. Then I bought it for my niece who had recently divorced and was looking for a new job. It’s a little gift that asks a powerful question that I think could change lives.

It was a pewter paperweight with the inscription, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” And the words have not ceased to replay in my head.

I’ve been thinking about how many times throughout my life fear of failure paralyzed my actions. In elementary school, when softball was the sport of the day, I would keep sneaking to the end of the line to avoid going to bat. In high school, I never auditioned for parts in the school musical productions. In college, I wouldn’t raise my hand and avoided making eye contact with professors during class discussions.

And what does this question mean to me today? My only child is a college grad, married and living in another state. I’ve resigned from a long-time occupation. I’m asking myself, what I would attempt to do if I knew I could not fail, and I wonder as I consider the possibilities.

Movies instruct me sometimes.

One was the 1987 movie titled “Stand and Deliver”. Edward James Olmos played Jaime Escalante, the real-life teacher who motivated his students through the power of possibility thinking. He guided a group of undervalued students to unparalleled levels of success by focusing on their potential rather than his students’ past limitations. The film illustrated that through confidence and determination nothing is too daunting. He told his students all they needed to achieve their goal was “ganas” – which he defined as the “desire” to achieve.

Is it really possible for me to attempt new career goals? Is it ever too late? Could I be too old to start anew?

And “heavy” on my heart are the questions – can I really lose enough weight to get back into clothes worn fifteen years ago? Or even five years ago? What is it that has been keeping me from trying?

One of my favorite authors, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote, “Our thoughts beget our actions; they make us what we are.” I wonder how often fear of failure held me back. Made me avoid new situations and experiences. Kept me from reaching my full potential. Stopped me from even trying to accomplish my dreams.

This reminds me of another movie.

The 1980 Star Wars movie, “The Empire Strikes Back.” When asked to raise his sunken starfighter from the Dagobah swamps, Luke Skywalker responded he would try. “No,” scolded Yoda. “Do or do not. There is no try.” But Luke was not certain the Force could lift such a massive object. He failed. Yet Yoda, using the Force, did lift the x-wing fighter and place it on dry land. Luke exclaimed, “I don’t believe it.” And Yoda stated, “That is why you fail.” Mary Baker Eddy said it this way, “It is insincerity and a half-persuaded faith that fail to succeed and fall to the earth.”

My life has not been without failures. As I now reflect on these experiences, I see that each of those situations carried with it the seed for success. They required that I take what I learned and move forward. They required a new viewpoint. Instead of dwelling on a perceived mistake as a failure, looking at it as the outcome of an action, a decision, a choice. Changing an outcome required taking a different action. I’ve found success in this way before. I can again.

So, here’s my new year game plan.

Don’t let fear incapacitate me. Take bold, decisive actions. Persist. Keep trying. Try different approaches. Don’t take failures personally. Know failure is not a character trait, only an outcome. Don’t let discouragement take hold. Do things differently until I get the results I want. See failures as opportunities to learn and find the key to success. Be a possibility thinker. Find my child-like spirit with its unstoppable and boundless curiosity. Be more forgiving towards myself. Enjoy new challenges. Develop new talents. Have faith in my abilities. Be confident. Determined. Committed to the pursuit of my goals. Enjoy the ride as much as the destination.

Those thirteen words, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” have inspired me with a “can do” attitude. They have pointed me toward a Higher Power that is helping me replace fear and uncertainty with courage and assurance of success. How can I fail?