Failing Successfully

I wasn’t sure what to start writing about this week, but it came to me this morning after waking up from a slightly rowdy night with the boys while on vacation. Let’s just say the healthiest decisions regarding food, beverages, and fitness behaviors have not been made since leaving home. Yes, I did get a quick workout in yesterday, but I’m going to say it was half-ass, since admittedly I was still recovering from the night before and running on too little sleep. This is not a game plan for success. “Failures” came from every direction. Food – failed. Fitness – failed. These are the times it’s easy to beat up on yourself; potentially contemplate giving up.

I’m a little frustrated with myself for making decisions to or to not do certain things with regards to my health. It feels like a set back. On the other hand, we need to enjoy time away and time with friends and family. I could look at this as a failure and get frustrated; give up, go home, and move on. Or, I can learn from these experiences, attempt to moderate behaviors, and figure out how to be a little healthier while on vacation.

I’m still studying for my health coaching certificate through the National Society of Health Coaches and one of the chapters discusses the Transtheoretical Model for behavior change. This model was presented to me in college, and it wasn’t that interesting at the time. Reviewing this information for the second time, many years later, it is much more fascinating and very applicable in understanding how behavior change occurs and how to help facilitate behavior change. It presents that there are six stages to behavior change: Pre-Contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance, and Termination or Relapse. What I really like about this model is that it demonstrates that behavior change is fluid. We can all bounce in between stages. What I want to focus on today is the “Termination” or “Relapse” phase.

The Relapse stage is our “failure” phase. This can be the stage that can hurt the most. All the time spent, all the effort put in, seemingly wasted…it can be disheartening. So, how do you bounce back and recover from this stage of the Transtheoretical Model? How do you regain confidence to continue on your way to leading a healthier life? I like to look at failures as learning experiences. For example; I have not eaten or drank in a manner that’s supportive of my goals the last few days. Keeping in mind that I do enjoy food and beer, maybe I can cut down on the amount of unhealthy food and beer consumed during vacation. I couldn’t cut it out all together; that’s just not realistic for me. The question is, though, how do I go about doing that? There is a social aspect as well that I need to account for. I need to account for the activities I’m participating in with my friends, the restaurants we’re going to, etc. Sometimes things are easier said than done, but like I said, look at failures as learning experiences. Examine what happened, and figure out a game plan to move forward.

Something else that helps is the understanding that everyone has failed at some point. You’re not in this alone. You’re not the only one that has failed when trying to change certain behaviors. When changing habits to help develop a healthier lifestyle, there’s bound to be a little trial and error. Don’t be hard on yourself. Everyone has failed at some point. And, something else that I haven’t thought of until reading through the study manual from the National Society of Health Coaches was to focus on your previous successes. This shows that you CAN get passed this. You can be successful. You haven’t failed. You’re not a failure. You’ve had a set-back; something you can learn from and overcome to keep progressing.

Stop thinking in terms of failures. Start thinking in terms of learning experiences. After this weekend, I have more than a few learning experiences to examine on the plane ride home tomorrow. That’s okay. Hopefully being able to thoroughly examine these learning experiences will help me to develop stronger skills when outside of my normal routine. Don’t quit, and realize that failure isn’t final. You can bounce between the different stages of change. Learning from these little set-backs will help you develop greater long-term success. Fail Successfully!

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