Q: It seems like every time I try to make some improvement in my life, like learning a new skill or developing a good habit, I fall short of my goals. I might make some progress, but never as much as I want. It's very discouraging. What's your advice?
Jim: One of the greatest barriers to success is an "all or nothing" attitude. That's when you convince yourself that minor setbacks justify scrapping the whole endeavor. It's like when you slip up on your diet and eat a pint of ice cream. That one mistake causes some people to abandon their diet for the rest of the week ... or the rest of the month ... or even permanently.
Abandoned goals litter the road of life. Staying the course is especially difficult when the changes you're making are big ones. It's not easy to start an exercise program or to give an important relationship a whole new level of time and attention. Change doesn't happen overnight. In fact, research says that it takes an average of 66 days to form new habits. That means you have to remain persistent and expect a few setbacks along the way.
The good news is that setbacks don't have to turn into complete derailment. Success may require a lot of things from you, but perfection isn't one of them. We all fall short sooner or later. And those missteps can have a good outcome if you stay hungry, productive and are willing to learn and grow. The path to the finish line doesn't always go around failure -- it usually goes right through the heart of it.
Writer and philosopher G.K. Chesterton once wrote: "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly." So give yourself a little room to fail. Cut yourself some slack and keep on trying.
Q: As a media analyst, what's your biggest concern about today's culture? And what, if anything, gives you hope?
Adam Holz, Plugged In: That's a great question. I think my biggest concern involves the way technology has increasingly insinuated itself into every nook, cranny and crevice of our lives. That's largely due to the portable nature of smartphones. They've made constant connection with content of all kinds a way of life for many people. And though we often see articles about children's screen-time concerns, research also shows that many parents have similar habits or perhaps even addictions when it comes to our screens.
All that time connected to screen-based media comes freighted with potential problems. Obviously, there's the question of content -- of what we're looking at and listening to. For teens, the content issue is huge, especially if parents haven't utilized appropriate internet filters and focused on building a relationship where they can talk to their teens about their online habits. But beyond that, screen time is also conditioning our brains and neural connections to pick up these devices compulsively, potentially to the detriment of our important relationships and health. And though social media theoretically helps us connect with others, for many teens and adults alike, it's increasingly being correlated with anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns.
On the brighter side, however, more and more experts are sounding the alarm about the potential pitfalls of too much exposure to screen-based content of all kinds. Just as culture slowly awakened to the health hazards of smoking a generation ago, researchers are increasingly warning about the need to rein in our culture's love affair with mobile connectivity. Unplugging from some of these habits won't be easy, but a growing chorus of voices are encouraging and equipping us to do exactly that.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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