For most, the word failure is extremely negative. It is scary and to be avoided at all costs. For the most successful individuals in all areas of life, failure is an invaluable learning tool and to be embraced.
It’s not pleasant to fail, and it doesn’t feel good. But the lessons and insights to come as a result, if we take them, are absolutely essential in helping us to learn and come back stronger and smarter than before. As Rihanna has now famously tattooed herself, “Never a failure, always a lesson.”
Why The Successful Love to Fail
The character trait that seems to set apart the successful from the not-successful is the ability to embrace these failures, learn from them, adjust, and try again. In this regard, failure really truly is not an option–it is an essential lesson that guides us to success.
How many amazing products, books, art, technology, songs, etc. would we have missed out on if the creator had quit at their first, second, or even third failure? I think we’d all be surprised at just how much failure these greats of history have actually experienced.
The result of embracing failure rather than fearing it is a greater desire to take risks we wouldn’t otherwise take. If we’re not afraid to fail, then risks don’t seem quite as scary. It also causes us to appreciate our accomplishments that much more; success would not be quite as sweet without tasting failure first.
How to Learn From Failure in Fitness
Fitness is no exception in this area. Mistakes are so important in learning what doesn’t work, regrouping, and moving forward with more knowledge. As a matter of fact, the term “failure” in weight training is a label of success! Once you reach muscle failure, this means you’ve pushed as hard as you can, torn your muscles down so they can rebuild themselves stronger for the next workout. We literally gain strength through failure.
So how do we experience failure in fitness, and what does it teach us? Here are just a few examples of what we can learn from these situations, based on my own personal failures in fitness.
- Failure: You’re trying to eat healthier foods and avoid junk food, but you had a bad day and just ate an entire bag of potato chips.
- Lesson: Stress or emotional situations can trigger you to eat the foods that you know aren’t good for you. Instead of giving up and going back to your unhealthy ways, you acknowledge that you are prone to poor eating habits when you are stressed, and come up with a plan to deal with your stress in a healthy way the next time. Because of this, the next time you have a bad day, you go for a long stroll instead.
- Failure: You lowered your carbohydrate intake based on a recommendation you read. You’re losing fat like you want, but you feel lightheaded and miserable all the time.
- Lesson: You adjust your intake until you start feeling better, and go forward with the knowledge that a low carbohydrate diet is just not for you. You keep experimenting until you find the magic formula where you still feel great but can also lose fat.
- Failure: You gain back the 10, 20 or more pounds you lost.
- Lesson: You look back over the past few months and evaluate what went wrong. You try adjusting your workouts to make them more enjoyable, or experiment with new healthy foods to find ones you’ll stick to.
- Failure: You wanted to start getting up early to work out. You were successful at this your first week or two, but now it’s getting old, you’re too tired, and you start skipping it instead.
- Lesson: You discover that mornings are just not the best time for your workouts, so you move them to your lunch break instead. When this plan fails, rather than giving up and quitting, you move your workouts back to the mornings but change the exercise to something you look forward to. When THIS plan fails, rather than give up and quit, you decide to put your gym clothes right next to the bed, and the alarm across the room so you have to get on your feet. When THIS plan fails, you hire a personal trainer. When THIS plan fails…..(see where I’m going?)
Never Give Up
The truth is that failure exists only if you let it. Don’t stop trying. EVER. No matter how epic the failure, no matter how embarrassed you are, you will not succeed until you stop seeing your mistakes as a reason to quit and give up and start thinking of them as LESSONS to propel you forward instead. Embrace your failures and you will succeed.
Try writing down a list of your biggest failures in fitness, and what this taught you. If you haven’t learned the lesson from your failure yet, now is the opportunity to find the lesson and learn from it. It’s not too late.
What have you learned from your greatest failures in fitness?