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I’m not really even a fantasy story fan… in case you’re wondering why I’m quoting J.R.R. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings.

I can explain, however, why my thoughts went in that direction today.

A bunch of years ago, I had a small wellness business: I coached clients to increase their activity levels and taught them how to healthify their food intake.

Most people who are trying to change their habits slip off the proverbial wagon from time to time. Hopefully it’s an isolated incident, sometimes the “slip” lasts for days, weeks, even months.

In an effort to reduce the judgmental nature of the discussion around this, we used the verb “wander”. So, you make really healthy choices all week, but on Saturday evening you “wander” out for pizza and wine. You worked out every other day for a month and then decided to “wander” down to the rec room one weekend and binge watch Downton Abbey.

In using this word, there is no reference to the degree of the slip, in fact, it makes it sound more like a choice which takes away the self-blame that often goes with slipping off the wagon. It actually lightened up the mood of the discussions because clients could be quite theatrical as they explained how they wandered into a donut shop or an ice cream parlour… kicking and screaming the whole way, some of them claimed!

This morning, I realized that the same term could be used for those who are trying to improve their lives in other ways:

  • Did you buy an online course and then “wander” away from your computer?
  • Did you start going to yoga and then “wander” to your couch?
  • Did you buy a collection of self-help books then “wander” back to the romance shelf?


The best thing about “wandering” is that you can “wander” back any time. You haven’t fallen off the wagon – you merely wandered away. You certainly aren’t “lost”. There is no reason to beat yourself up for your transgressions – they are simply digressions.

You only fail if you quit. Or as Albert Einstein said “You never fail until you stop trying.”

As long as you’re breathing you can keep trying. That’s my theory.

I’m going to end this post with the full poem from The Lord of the Rings, it seems so apropos. I hope you read as deeply into it as you need to.

All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all those who wander are lost;

The old that is strong does not wither,

Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,

A light from the shadows shall spring;

Renewed shall be the blade that was broken,

The crownless again shall be king.