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How To Fail Better

She sat there with curved-in shoulders looking worn-out and sullen. It was only her second visit to our office. Her first had been full of energy and hope and commitment.  “This is my last go at this,” she exclaimed. “I’ve been through every diet plan there is. My weight has gone up and down since I was 12. I can’t tell you how much money I’ve spent on new clothes, therapists, gyms, classes, pills and potions. I never stuck with any of it. I’m tired of hating my body. If I don’t lose this weight this year, I’ll…”

Her roller coaster story and self criticism hung in the air. 

“Do you think I can do it? Do you really think I can change after all these years?” she continued to quiz my belief in her.

I paused. 

“I don’t know if you will, but you can,” I said. 

As a health coach for 12 years now, I’ve witnessed that some people give up too easily and too early. And I believe: We are all stronger and more resilient than we give ourselves credit for – we just haven’t tested the boundaries. 

So how do we fail better? 

What I mean by that is – how do we fail and then get back up and start again – being better than we were the day before?

If we are trying and showing up at all, we will slip and mess up some. Too often, we stay down instead of getting back up, dusting off our knees and starting again. 

Debbie and I are constantly asking people to experiment with small, doable, daily changes. One percent better each day. These little pivots all add up over time to make great change. Running a marathon is a good example of this.  You don’t start out running 26.2 miles. You start with a walk for a mile, then a walk-run for a mile and so on. Too often, we see people setting the bar too high. Why do people think they’ll lose 20 pounds in a month when it took them 20 years to put it on!? 

Here are a few additional ideas and lessons to work with: 

  • Don’t attach self-worth to failure. 
  • If you don’t do something, you’ll stay exactly where you are. Do something.
  • If it was easy, everybody would do it and our nation would be a beacon of health. Do it anyway and become that beacon. 
  • Imagine your future self after you’ve been consistent.  We’ve all had that experience of looking back when we’ve done something consistently and seen the results, no matter what it is–it’s a relatable experience.
  • If you aren’t failing sometimes, you probably aren’t working hard enough. It’s called growth-work for a reason. When you do fail, and we all do, you can choose to grow.

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