Dealing with failure:
“I lack personal commitment. Honestly I do. I can’t trust myself. I want to improve but every time, I just can’t. That lamington is too tempting for my diet. Going cold turkey is too hard, because I really enjoy that cigarette with a drink.”
Ever felt that way?
Late last year I wrote on new year’s resolutions, and how the ones we make about becoming someone different or improving are always the hardest ones to change. (You can read about “change for the better” ). My thoughts are the new years resolutions are the hardest to keep, because they require genuine personal change of habits.
Normally, the next mental step in failing to achieve these goals is to rationalise them away.
“I am naturally big boned. Its not my fault, my boss is draconian. The targets are unrealistic. My customers are idiots. They just don’t get it. These products are deficient. I don’t care, I just like a smoke when I drink. Men think I am more attractive with a cigarette, and I’ll have plenty of time to quite when I am older. I am a Man, I am not going to any prostrate clinic. My parents just brought me up that way. My DNA is to blame.”
Many of these thoughts are just that :thoughts. We never say them. We rationalise them away. Accepting them as reasons for failure. You see were were not really commited to them. They were just intentions.
These are mental notes that we pile away from our point of view. We tick them off as valid reasons and put away without a second’s reflection.
They fly in and out of our minds as easily and as with as little impact and import as the initial resolutions which spurred them.
How to Avoid Failure (and Success)
The easiest way to avoid failure is of course not to commit and be accountable.
It’s what we normally do. It’s what I do.
We make the new year’s resolutions in our mind, where no one can see or hear or hold us to our word or commitment. Those are the ones we easily forget.
You see the easiest way to go through life is never to make a commitment and never fail. If we do make a commitment, then lets just do it in our mind, that way when we fail, we’ll just let the excuse and rationale fly away with the commitment.
“Let’s keep out commitments light and easy, so we can easily rationalise them away.”
The level of commitment to a goal, despite initial failures and successes is proportional to our public and self commitment to it. We actually do “fail”, but because we have only a ‘non-core’ commitment to the goal, we can easily rationise these away as not a non-failure.
We give up at the first sign of resistance.
The lighter the publicity, the lighter the commitment. The lighter of the self acceptance of the goal, the lighter to chance of successes.
How to Achieve Your Goals: Use Consistency to your own Mental Advantage.
Caldini in his book “influence” sites another example of a study of the group of students who were asked to estimate a length of a sentence.
Some were asked to write down their estimates and sign their name, a second sent were asked to write them down on a Magic Writing Pad’s plastic cover and then quickly to lift the cover erasing their work and a third set of students asked to keep the estimates in their own mind privately.
When presented with further evidence that their initial judgment may be incorrect, it was shown that the group that wrote down their estimate and signed it was most loyal to it- the most persistant, with the group what that did not write down their estimate was least loyal to it with more changing their mind on their initial estimates.
The act of writing down their estimates and signing their name, increased the students commitment to the estimate. This is the same force as I wrote recently on “Consistency” in a recent article regarding Racetrack Punters confidence in their bets.
Want to achieve the Goals? -> Then write them down and tell someone.
Formalise and write your goals down. Sign them. Publicly tell someone. Really commit yourself to them. Have those friends hold you accountable. Report back to them on your progress.
General DeGaulle whose remarkable results for France was said to have an ego almost as big as his country. He wanted to quit smoking, and so publically announced that he was stopping smoking. When asked why he publically announced his intention he replied “DeGaulle cannot go back on his word”.
If you really want to achieve a goal. Take a risk. Write it down. Tell someone about your goal and then go and do it. You’ll be amazed at what you can acheive.