How does that saying go? "When you fail to plan you plan to fail." Yeah, I like that one, but I also think that you need to plan to fail in order to succeed.
We often think about failure as something we want to avoid. Who wants to fail at something? Failure sucks, but failure is a part of the learning and growing process. If you aren't failing, you probably aren't trying to learn, grow or improve in life.
I often run into this with my nutrition clients as they go through the program. A common sentiment is "I didn't do what I was supposed to do last week, I feel like a failure."
It's a great opportunity to remind you that failure is part of the process. Behavior changes are hard. No one decides to eat healthier, to start working out or change bad habits and then immediately changes their whole life. It just doesn't work like that. No one reads one article on the internet, goes to one exercise class or enrolls in one nutrition course and instantly changes all their bad behaviors. Change is hard, it takes time and practice and it is never linear. A lot of times you have to fail a bunch of times before you get it right.
Trying and failing is part of the process. One of the lessons in the nutrition program is to eat our meals slowly. No one reads the lesson one time and starts eating slower for every meal from there on out. It takes practice. One of my clients said, "I feel terrible, but I was so busy this week, I didn't have time to eat slower! My toddler was throwing mashed potatoes at me while I was trying to eat my dinner. I had to eat it as fast as possible. I didn't do what I was supposed to do, I failed!"
This may feel like failure, but this is real life. Two year olds will always act like two year olds. If you plan to only "do better" when your two year old matures, then you'll never get there. Expect that something will almost always go awry. It's not about doing everything perfectly, but just trying to do the best you can in your current circumstances.
It's a learning process. It's all about making lifestyle changes that fit into your already busy life. Life is always going to be busy. What can you do today that is slightly better choice than what you did yesterday. How can you improve an inch?
If you ate your meal too fast but afterwards thought about how you ate your meal too fast, I call that a win. It shows your awareness is improving. In the past you weren't even aware you were eating too fast. This is a step in the right direction. Recognizing our behaviors is the first step to changing them.
I know it doesn't seem like much, but the little things add up over time. The most successful people make changes slowly over time. You can try to do everything all at once and beat yourself up when it doesn't work out, or you can make small changes that are sustainable over the long term. You can try and fail and try and fail again. I do. It's all part of the process.
FAILURE IS FEEDBACK
Failure is feedback. When you fail, you have an opportunity to improve. When you don't do what you thought you wanted to do, look at it as a learning experience. Ask yourself, what went wrong? Why didn't this go as planned? What stopped me from doing what I thought I wanted to do? What can I do next time this happens to make a better decision? What's one thing I can focus on in order to do better?
You could beat yourself over it and feel bad about it, but that's not productive. When things didn't go as planned, you now know what doesn't work. What you can try next time?
It's also taking responsibility for what went wrong. You can blame your kids or your husband or your boss or your coach for what went wrong, but really thinking about how you could have handled the situation better and what you could have done differently is the path to improvement. Life will always have obstacles.
It was life changing for me to realize that healthy living isn't all-or-nothing. I used to think if I wasn't perfect, then what's the point of doing anything? If I messed up and missed a workout, I already failed, I might as well eat the ice-cream. If I brought my healthy lunch to work, but then was tempted to dine out with co-workers instead, then I might as well order pizza for dinner that day too, since I already messed up. When I missed too many workouts, I should just quit the program, I'm already too far behind.
That kind of thinking doesn't move us forward. It teaches us to make good decisions only when everything goes perfectly, instead of teaching us how to make healthier choices inside our messy lives. When you make a choice that doesn't fit your goals, move on and try to make a better choice at the next opportunity. When you miss a workout, maybe can you do 5-10 minutes of bodyweight exercises before bed instead. When you eat an unhealthy lunch, you can make sure you get your lean protein, smart carbs and healthy fats at dinner. Every small healthy decision moves you forward. Every failure is a learning opportunity.
The people that are the most successful are the people who have failed the most, because they keep trying, moving forward and learning when faced with setbacks. Failure is only truly failure if you give up on your goals all together.
Set your expectations. Failure is part of the process. Plan to fail in order to succeed.
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