Make Failure Your Ally
If you visit a fitness blog then it’s likely you do not have a problem with training regularly. But you are looking for answers to improve as a person, athlete or coach. You are looking for reasons. You are looking for advice. But here is the killer. How much action do you really take from the advice you discover. The interesting articles you devour, your incessant need to find a shortcut. Your certainty, that there must be an easier way, while deep down you know one doesn’t exist!
What if I told you that there was an easier way! A way that you can implement all of the great ideas you think can make a difference for you. A way to start doing those things, you know you should. A way that you can stop doing the things you know you shouldn’t.
What if I told you to achieve all of this, that all you have to do is follow a simple system. Would you be interested?
Before I tell you the ‘one thing’ there are some details we need to cover:
|1.Perception||We perceive everything around us differently. We are all unique. But what we all have in common is that we live in a world that is trying to avoid failure (unless it’s your last set of bench)! As a society we view failure as something bad. We are naturally quick to judge the mistakes of others and to avoid the same fate we hide our own.|
Our entire existence, from a cellular level to the world around us is based upon energy exchange. Effort requires energy. Deep down we know that effort is more important than ability but we know it also has a cost. We have survived and evolved by minimizing the effort required to do everything. This is the driver of our behaviours and habits.
|3. Pain||We all understand pain whether physical or emotional. Unfortunately most of us do not understand how to manage it properly. We therefore seek to avoid pain wherever possible. Yes, I know you love to train and that at times it’s painful, but you are gaining something from this in terms of endorphin release or gratification of performance improvements and improved confidence from feeling healthy and looking great. If you already turn up to train habitually, it’s likely you experience this pain in other aspects of your program like mobility or nutrition.|
In the Above Failure model, I call this chain Perceived Effort and Pain (PEP). You can think of PEP as the force that stops you from doing the things you want to, or the things you know you should. There are lots of reasons for this and they are unique to us as individuals.
PEP is also the thing that prevents us writing down our goals, stops us hitting that extra training session each week, gets in the way of the 5 minutes of mobility work we want to do each day or whatever that one thing is for you. So how do we overcome it?
Firstly we need to adopt Failure-Thinking. At Above Failure I teach and mentor a radical approach that totally embraces failure. Not only does this approach remove the fear of failing, it actually enables us to learn from it. Sounds easy!
This is something the aviation industry does better than any other and also why, it’s an incredibly safe and efficient industry. If the worst happens and an aircraft goes down, the black box is analysed to find out why. This isn’t to attribute blame. The information is used to improve aircraft systems, training, procedures and regulations to prevent the same failure ever happening again. This in no way removes the tragedy of the event. It is also nothing to do with positive thinking and all about factual thinking. With the right culture, systems and procedures it ensures that the same failure will never happen again. Let me repeat that, the same failure will never happen again! When was the last time you analysed the reasons behind you failing to achieve something?
Being immersed in aviation for decades, I decided to investigate what would happen if we treated individuals with the same approach and the results were astounding. Initially I found reluctance due to our innate tendency to ignore failures and even delete them from our memory altogether. But seeing failure as something we can learn from creates a roadmap to success and reduces the PEP. Why is this so important?
This really is a chicken and egg scenario. We all have human brains that operate the same way. But we don’t have a robust user manual and so become victims of our own evolutionary programming to avoid thoughts of failure.
This is because we perceive failure as having ‘emotional’ cost or energy requirement. Your brain is a super efficient machine that will minimise energy output wherever possible and this is achieved by blocking items that have high Perceived Effort and Pain. This is why changing is so hard!
At this point it’s worth thinking about habits. A habit is a behavior or action that occurs with little or no conscious thought. Wowsers! No energy needed. Your brain loves habits because they carry very little energy cost. It’s estimated that around 45-50% of our daily behaviours are habitually based for this reason.
As discussed, behaviours require effort and brain power to carry them out. Therefore, I completely believe that the first step to achieving any sort of goal is to learn to achieve automatic behavior change i.e. how to change or create a habit. Without this ability you cannot guarantee success in any other endeavor. If you cannot overcome Perceived Effort and Pain you cannot successfully goal set in the first place. So the first step on the path to achieving goals is not goal setting, but learning how to change your habits by lowering PEP. Making things habitual in turn lowers the PEP of carrying out the desired action to such an extent that it becomes easy to adopt and maintain.
STEP 1: Learn the habit of Failure-Thinking.
Not learning from failure has been one of the single greatest obstacles to human progress. We offer a radically different perspective that embraces failure. By re-defining our relationship with failure we are driving towards a high performance revolution.
You must also remember that this is a process. If you watched a video of an awesome clean and jerk, it doesn’t mean you will be able to go out and re-create it yourself. I teach ABOVE Habits (formation and change) to clients, but this is the subject of an entire weekend seminar. So if you can’t get this to work the first time or even the third, it’s totally fine. Identifying the things that are holding you back is the essential first step. Often, when you really dig into this, the solution is easy to come up with yourself. The key is to be relentless about why failure has happened rather than ignore it.
In the future posts I will be outlining the habit change process using the ABOVE Habits model. The PEP Talk is a learning tool that forms part of the first step to habit change and is a great way to move in the right direction if you can implement it yourself through practice. This is where you will really start to learn the power of the habit-behaviour-performance chain.
For now, I want to leave you with the first tool on the path to developing the ability to change or create habits. When you experience a Perceived Effort and Pain roadblock you have to ACKNOWLEDGE it. You can use a ‘PEP talk’ to remind you of the first steps.
1. I want to [fill in the blank] but I don’t or can’t.
2. Perception = Why do I want to W.I.N? What are my Wants, Interests or Needs that make this important to me? Remember failure is not bad it is my MAP. I have to learn from it to succeed.
3. Effort = What makes this action difficult for me? List everything you can think of and identify the 3 biggest influences that hold you back.
4. Pain = What is/was the emotional cost or underlying reason stopping me? What pain does this action create or what pleasure does it remove?
TIP: When completing a section above, if you are struggling simply ask yourself why. Usually it takes less than 5 why’s to find the root cause.
e.g. I don’t get up for my morning session. Why? I can’t be bothered. Why? I’m tired. Why? I didn’t get much sleep. Why? I went to bed late. Why? I don’t have a set bedtime or bedtime routine.
This helps to identify that the cause of this habit not taking off is simply going to bed slightly earlier and even hints at possible solutions.
That’s it. Nothing else is needed at this stage. You may naturally start to find that answers become clear in the ‘Effort’ section without much effort. But it’s normal to still be unsure about a solution and you don’t have to find one just yet. The first task is simply to make a habit of ACKNOWLEDGING that failure has taken place and use the ‘PEP talk’, remembering that learning from failure will actually create our map to the success we are after so there is no need to feel bad about it.
Then ACCEPT that it is totally normal but the responsibility is in your hands. Only you can get over your Perceived Effort and Pain. Your perception is not even all yours. It is made up of your own experiences and the experiences and perceptions of others. Take some responsibility and give it a try. Remember that this process has transformed the aviation industry and it can work for you on a personal level too.
I always emphasise the 3 Above Failure Rules when you are trying to implement any of our simple strategies:
- It takes time to get good at using the tools.
- Failure is your MAP. Be relentless in your pursuit of why it went wrong.
- Be individual. Don’t be afraid to search for other inspiration outside these tools. This is a framework to get you moving.
Get after it. Do the hard things. Enjoy every second. Be Above Failure.