Nov 24, 2020
Have you ever planned to do something positive for your health, for example, to exercise or to stop eating treats in the evening, but then found yourself not following through? Did this make you think that you ‘failed’ again or even perhaps that you’re a ‘failure’ in some way?
Today, we’d like to show you that you’re closer to succeeding than you may think and that there’s a much more powerful way to look at these events - a way that will turn you in the right direction rather than leaving you feeling bad and perhaps returning to old patterns of self-sabotage.
What’s this new approach? It’s simply to look at the events as a useful ‘lesson’ instead of making them mean something about you ‘failing’ or about who you are as a person.
You might be saying to yourself - “What does this mean? Are you saying there’s no such thing as failure?” Well, of course there is – if you choose to look at it this way. Please remember however that the concept of failure is not a real, physical thing in the real world – it’s what academics call a ‘construct’, something that’s made up by the human mind. It’s a particular way of labelling certain events and it’s only one of many possible ways.
Since it’s our own minds that have come up with the concept of failure, we also have the right to ask how well this concept actually serves us. When we attempt something unsuccessfully and then label it a ‘failure’ - it doesn’t generally help us and in fact it can be harmful - it often leaves us feeling bad. From there it’s only a short step to possibly questioning our self worth. You may ask yourself - "What’s the point of even trying if I always fail?" When you go down this path, it’s easy to become discouraged or to lose interest.
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new” Albert Einstein
A much more powerful way to look at the events is to simply look at them as ‘feedback’. Perhaps the way you chose to approach the wanted action was unrealistic or overambitious or not planned properly - and importantly, there’s a better way to do it, or perhaps it’s simply still too new an activity for you to have the requisite skills or experience. It’s much more useful to think of taking a new action in terms of an experiment. You try something out. It either works as you want it to, in which case great, you can keep doing it, or, it doesn’t work as you want it to, in which case you’ve gained valuable feedback that you can use to adjust what you do next time.
“Failure is not the opposite of success; it’s part of success” Arianna Huffington.
For example, if for your exercise, you planned to go to the gym after work for an hour but then found yourself feeling tired and unmotivated and didn’t do it - then ask yourself what’s the lesson here? Perhaps an hour is too much to start with and you would be better off aiming for 25 minutes until you have the habit in place? Perhaps you don’t particularly like the gym and you would be better off going for a walk outside? Perhaps a morning or lunchtime slot would be better for some movement? Perhaps you need to get a training partner who will keep you accountable?
In relation to those evening treats, perhaps it was unrealistic to resist the temptations when you know that they’re in the drawer? Perhaps it’s time to remove the temptations, stop buying them or to have a conversation with the person that does do the shopping? Perhaps it’s time to find a more empowering way to connect with yourself in the evening, for example, by taking a relaxing bath, reading a book or having a soothing herbal tea? Perhaps you need to schedule in one evening during the week where you go out for a small treat and you savour and enjoy it, so that you indulge on your terms? There are so many ways to approach a lifestyle change and it’s important to stay creative and curious, rather than to see unsuccessful attempts as ‘failures’.
Our brains are like super-computers and they’re designed to answer any questions that we ask of them. If we ask a disempowering question such as "why did I fail?” or “why am I a failure?” then our brains will search for answers to these questions and we probably won’t like what they come up with! Instead, when you ask yourself a more empowering question, you’ll get a more empowering solution. Ask yourself "what can I learn?", "how can I make it better?" and perhaps "how can I make it successful and enjoyable?".
“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing” Henry Ford
So approach every lifestyle change as an experiment. One that simply works or that signals to you that you need to tweak your approach slightly. With this attitude, you’re much more likely to find a way that eventually does work and that moves you closer towards the results that you want.This is so much more effective than simply attempting the same strategy again and again and again and trying to rely on willpower.