I fail all the time.

I spend money on things I shouldn’t. I’ll see something at Target or on Amazon and buy it without giving it any sort of reflection. I’ll forget my grocery list, go to the store anyway, manage to get most of what was on the list, but buy a bunch of unintended stuff, too.

I’m not as organized as I’d like to be. I have lots of bins and boxes with random things in them. I can usually find something that I need when I need it, but it looks chaotic and no one else can make heads or tails of it.

I don’t exercise as much as I aim to. I actually don’t mind exercise when I get going, but I often fail to motivate myself to get started.

I don’t eat perfectly. I can resist sweets, but not savory snacks. I often eat more than I should when I like the taste of a meal.

I don’t stick to my goals. I usually set too many of them and find myself falling short of a lot of them.

I spend time on things I shouldn’t and don’t spend enough time on things I should. I manage to follow my own to-do list pretty well, but I flounder without some sort of directive to follow.

I’m often extremely hard on myself and prone to driving myself into melancholy for things that really aren’t a big deal.

I’m often awkward in social situations. I get nervous and either stop speaking or stumble all over my words.

I fail. I failed at several things today and I’m likely to fail at several things tomorrow.

Even given all of that, I am not a failure.

A failure is someone who accepts those mistakes and little failures and decides that those define who they are. A failure would look at that list and decide: I am those failures, they are who I am, and that’s who I will always be.

A failure is a person who decides that they can’t be any better than they already are. A failure decides that their little mistakes are fine because that’s who they are. A failure accepts bad results because they don’t believe they can do any better or deserve any better.

I am not a failure. I am merely a person who fails and makes mistakes. Yet those failures and mistakes don’t define me. Rather, they tell me where I can improve. That sense of failure isn’t a reminder that I’m broken, but where I need to work.

When I spend money on things I shouldn’t, that doesn’t mean I’m a failure with money. It means I need to take a look at my spending habits. Why did I buy that game I didn’t really need that exceeded my hobby budget? Why did I even want it to begin with? Why didn’t I have a better grip on my hobby spending? It’s time to rethink my hobbies a little bit and get a better system in place for my hobby spending.

Why did I go shopping without a grocery list? Something’s off with my routines for grocery shopping, so what can I do better next time?

When I notice my chaotic bins and baskets, that doesn’t mean I’m a failure at organization. It means that I need to reflect on my methods of storage and whether I can do it better. Do I really need all of these things? Is there a better way to arrange them? Is there a better system so that I can keep the stuff I need and find it easily without having it look like a chaotic looking mess? Again, it’s time to look at how I do these things and find some better routines.

When I’m unhappy with my fitness, that doesn’t mean I’m a failure at my personal health. It means that I need to figure out some new approaches to fitness. What exercises do I actually enjoy? How can I motivate myself better when it comes time to actually choose to exercise? How can I build a good routine so that it all comes naturally?

Those kinds of questions are my response to something I’m unhappy with in my life or some area of my life in which I failed.

I am not a failure. I am a person who failed at something, and failing is okay as long as it is not paired with giving up and no longer trying to be better. Failure is okay as long as it is followed with picking myself up, asking what I did wrong, and genuinely trying to go back and do it better the next time.

No matter how badly I fail at something, it’s not the end of the story. No matter how badly I flopped, there’s always tomorrow.

Tomorrow is another opportunity to succeed. Another opportunity to do it right.

Each day is a blank slate upon which I can be the best person I can possibly be. I will fall short of that, without a doubt, but I aim for it every day.

I try to make each day my masterpiece, to make it my Picasso. Of course, many days often turns out looking like an abstract attempt at a Bob Ross painting, but it’s something, and hopefully it’s a little better than my average day.

And then the next day, I get up and try to make that day my masterpiece once again.

The thing is, I will always fall short of that perfect day. I know this. I will always mess something up in some aspect of my life because I am not a perfect person.

Instead, what matters most is the journey and the effort along the way. Did I put in genuine effort toward improving in the areas I want to improve in? That matters more than anything else. With that genuine effort comes slow and steady improvement, even if it doesn’t mean immediate and endless success.

Am I putting forth genuine effort every single day to be better at the things that matter to me, and am I learning from what fails and what succeeds? If so, I’m not a failure. I don’t need to be the best. I just need to work at it consistently, day in and day out. It’s only when I stop working and accept my shortcomings that I truly become a failure.

Furthermore, not being the best at something doesn’t mean failure. I don’t need to be the fourth degree black belt at my taekwondo school who can break three boards back to back with a single jump kick, but what I need to be is a little crisper on my forms than I was a month ago. I don’t need to be absolutely perfect in how I spend every dime of my money and every moment of my time, but what I need to be is a little less wasteful than I was a year ago.

Every day, I try to do better. Every day, I try to put forth the effort. Every day, I try to paint my masterpiece.

I fail. I fail often.

But I am not a failure.

Are you going to fail at something today? Sure. Every person alive is probably going to fail at something today. They’re going to spend money in a wasteful way. They’re going to not respond appropriately in a social situation. They’re going to eat something really unhealthy for supper. They’re going to yell at their kid because they couldn’t control their emotions. They’re going to leave a friend in the lurch. They’re going to fail, they’re going to regret it, and they’re going to feel bad.

Are you going to be a failure? That’s up to you. Are you going to recognize that failure? Are you going to figure out what went wrong? Are you going to go back and try again, utilizing what you learned? Are you going to put in the effort to be a little better each day?

Then you’re not a failure, either.

Failure isn’t about results. Often, those are out of your control. It’s about continued effort, even when the results aren’t what you hoped for. It’s that continued effort that gradually produces better and better results and fewer and fewer failures over time.

You choose.

Good luck.

Trent Hamm

Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.