Feeling like you’ve failed at something can make it hard to move on. Whether you didn’t get that promotion, didn’t pass an exam, or failed to reach a specific training goal, failure can make you feel pretty bad.
But it is possible to take those lows and use them to climb higher towards your aims. It doesn’t happen overnight, but you can learn how to process failures positively and forgive yourself for missteps you may have made.
Then, once you’ve gotten the hang of managing the difficult emotions that come with any sort of failure and developed the skill of re-focusing on what you can control in the present and the future, you’ll be better set up for success.
What do we mean by failure when it comes to fitness?
Generally, when we say we have failed at fitness, it comes down to two basic things:
- Not reaching a fitness goal in a particular time frame
- Not sticking to a routine or habit that you had committed to
Why do we fail at this sometimes?
There are many reasons why you fail at certain things when it comes to fitness. Some will be in your control but others won’t be.
The most common reason is usually because you haven’t yet established a routine. For example, if your goal is to run 5K, simply running 5K at your first attempt will probably result in failure (and probably injury).
To reach 5K you’ll need to get into the habit of running regularly, at short distances or through a mix of walking or jogging at first, and building up to the full distance over an achievable amount of time.
Establishing a habit isn’t the only reason that you might commit a fitness failure. Some factors may be out of your control, such as:
- your child’s illness
- disrupted schedules
What does failure do to you and your motivation?
When you feel like you’ve failed it can set you on a downward spiral of negativity. If you become fixated on the fact that you didn’t reach a specific goal in a particular time frame for example, you can become fixated on it which can leave you feeling less motivated.
What can you do to win?
Getting back up when you’re down might feel impossible at the time but it is 100% achievable. Just because you’ve missed a fitness goal or maybe missed training because of an injury, doesn’t mean you can’t smash it moving forward.
If you’ve missed that target, it may be because you haven’t yet established a habit. So, if we go back to running the 5K, have you…
- decided how many days per week you are going to train?
- convinced yourself not to run if it’s raining/cold/sunny?
- had to change your routine because your work patterns have changed?
- had to stop running because you have an injury?
All the above factors can play an important part in why you may have to stop training or why you may find yourself feeling less motivated to work towards your goal.
To get back up and continue training is all about mindset. If you experience feelings of failure, it’s super important to make peace with your past.
You are probably being harder on yourself than you would be on others. Think about how you might react if someone told you that they had failed. It’s likely that you’d be sympathetic and motivational, right? And that’s how you need to be with yourself. You won’t be the only one who is facing failure. In fact, there are many successful people who have failed before becoming successful.
Here are some famous people that failed and bounced back:
- Michael Jordan
- J. K. Rowling
- Steven Spielberg
- Walt Disney
So, handling failures is all about picking yourself back up and reframing beliefs. Don’t forget you are only human and there will be bumps in the road that you will need to overcome to be successful. That’s how failure can strengthen a person.
How to let go of past failures
So, we’ve talked about managing failures and improving your mindset, but how exactly?
The first step is to look at success not failure. If you remain flexible in your training, you’re more likely to turn your training into a habit and avoid burnout and failure.
Back to that 5K run again. You want to run 5K but don’t have the time, so what can you do? Well, instead of running 5K, just run 1 or 2K in the time you have. When you have achieved that goal, view it as a win -- because it is. Then you can build on this success to achieve bigger goals.
Turn failure into a learning experience
Humans are individuals, we are not all the same. So, when it comes to learning a new skill or achieving a new goal, it takes time to build it into a habit.
There is no rule book. Instead, you need to find out what works best for you and then keep doing it -- you can think of it like learning to drive. You go for lessons every week until eventually driving just feels like second nature.
If you’ve set yourself a goal but it hasn’t worked, for example, perhaps you tried to get up an hour earlier each morning but struggled. Rather than seeing this as a failure, look at what you may have learned. Maybe one hour early is too much. Perhaps try 30 minutes and build up to an hour.
Here, there is no such thing as failure, just learning experiences. If you feel like you have “failed”, then change your mindset, focus on supportive relationships, and develop healthy coping skills to encourage you to build habits.
Once these habits have been formed, then you are more likely to succeed. Remember, it takes time to build habits, so support yourself, and stay motivated.