This may alarm you, but it’s okay to set yourself up for failure. It may even be a great strategy for success.
I did something last weekend that I shouldn’t be proud of as a fitness persona. I had a big chicken sandwich with a side of gigantic onion rings. The whole meal was probably over half of my calories for the day, maybe more–probably more. And I know what you’re thinking “Shame on you! You tell us to eat healthy, and you’re over here stuffing your face!”
If you’re not thinking that, then good, you’ll be able to more easily relate to what I’m about to say. If you did think that just now, buckle up because I’m about to rock your world. Yes, I really mean that you should set yourself up for failure. I’ll explain.
Follow Medical Best Practices
When someone in the health field tells you to do good things for yourself, generally they mean eat nutritious food, get adequate sleep, and exercise regularly. And yes, you should do those things. They are the best things for you, and I will not dispute evidence that has been time-tested and scientifically proven. I’m not about that life.
What I will say is that you can also be good to yourself by doing things that make you feel good, even if they don’t fit into the convenient mold of sound medical advice. Now, obviously, if your doctor has told you “don’t drink alcohol again or you’ll die” you need to listen to that advice over any other. But in non-life-threatening situations, in order to maximize your success, you must allow yourself to fail.
What does that mean? Is that some kind of ancient proverb? Probably. When you are trying to maintain discipline, there are mental hills that are very hard to overcome, and very often those mental mountains are insurmountable when you haven’t trained them. And they can be difficult to maintain if you lack willpower, or if you hit the wall of a major life event.
COVID-19: More Than One Health Epidemic
In 2020-2021, everyone has hit a major life event at the same time. The pandemic is causing massive suffering physically and mentally for a lot of people. I personally know people who have not been able to recover their routines because of job loss, inability to go to the gym, loss of a trusted source of activity (either physical or mental), and general depression and anxiety.
I myself suffered the loss of a job, and since then I’ve been looking with little success. The days mix together, and it seems like you live only to wake up and then go to sleep. There’s no sense of urgency or purpose. No big decisions can be made because the uncertainty of it all is so paralyzing.
So, we decided to go out to one of our favorite burger places and pick up something that we’ve been working for the past few months to avoid. We’ve been meal prepping with healthy food, and learning a bit more each time we do it. But it was a Saturday, and the days had been running so close together that we felt suffocated. So, in that sense, going out and doing something rather unhealthy was the healthiest thing we could do.
Set Yourself Up for Failure… in Order to Succeed
So my advice, now, is to set yourself up for success but also set yourself up for failure. In other words, allow yourself to fail. Instead of setting goals like “I’m going to go an entire year without chocolate,” try “I will eat healthy at least 5 days a week.” This gives you room to fail, and that can be a powerful force for motivation. This is the reason many people fail their new year’s resolutions. “Well, if I’ve already screwed up on day two, there’s no reason to keep going on day three.”
But what if you built failure into your plan? Then you have the ability to say “Okay, well, I didn’t make it today, but as long as I make it three days this week, I’ll be fine.” It’s way less pressure, and you’ll be far more likely to be motivated to do better the next few days.
I hope you gain some motivation from this blog, and I hope that you stay motivated to meet your goals even as you fail, whether you set yourself up for failure or not. Use your head, and stay safe out there.