Updated: Nov 6, 2022
On the road to changing any behavior, there will be… potholes.
You’re cruising along smoothly and then—you “crash” and binge-eat half a box of those Caramel deLites Girl Scout cookies.
After a period of success, you view these kinds of setbacks as a total failure.
Sometimes this cuts so deep you're tempted to give up altogether.
“I just can’t control myself around food.”
“I’m just not one of those ‘fit’ people.”
No getting around it: These experiences suck.
But... they can also be used as an opportunity to offer this reframe:
It’s not a failure; it’s feedback.
Missteps, slip-ups, and mistakes are just information.
They reveal what’s not working and give ideas about what to do differently moving forward.
“Failing” can be PRODUCTIVE.
Here are three of my suggestions to turn the tide:
① Be curious.
Think more about the day the “failure” happened.
What happened leading up to it? What happened after? How did you feel?
② Channel self-compassion.
True self-compassion means being accountable for your actions, while kindly encouraging yourself to do your best when you can.
You may be out of practice being compassionate to yourself, so think about this:
“If a loved one or friend made the same mistake you made, what might you tell them to comfort them?”
Chances are, the advice you have for your “friend” will be kind, reasonable, and genuinely helpful. Now apply that to yourself.
③ Do an environment and support system audit.
Two big reasons people fail at making healthy changes: 1) a problem with their environment, or 2) a lack of social support.
A supportive environment and social network can give people positive momentum.
Here are some examples... 🏘 When your fridge is stocked with appealing and ready-to-eat veggie sticks, fruits, and homemade meals. 👨👩👦👦 When you have a neighbor who also loves to hike while dissecting the latest episode of House of Dragons.
Meanwhile, an environment full of obstacles and triggers and a lack of social support can make changes harder.
For instance... 🏘 When your office building has a million vending machines stocked with processed snacks, but zero fresh food options. (Seriously!) 👨👩👦👦 When you have a roommate who rolls her eyes at your healthy meals or no one to watch your kid so you can go to yoga regularly.
One of the best ways to understand why “failures” happen—and increase the likelihood of future success—is to evaluate the quality of one’s environment and social support.
To do that, ask yourself the following questions:
🤔 Was there anything in your environment (work or home) that triggered you to "slip-up"?
🤔 What are some ways you could change your environment to minimize this trigger, and/or encourage desired behaviors?
🤔 What support system would you have benefited from when your “failure” happened?
🤔 What actions can you take to strengthen that (or another) support system?
Failure: It’s actually pretty valuable.
When you thoroughly examine the “failure”—with curiosity, compassion, and honesty—you usually gain something in the end.
Eventually, failures become less scary—and more importantly, less of a reason to give up a meaningful goal.
And, as a result, serious progress can be made (instead of totally giving up or starting, stopping, and restarting over and over).
What do you think of this blog post?