Expectation of Failure

  • Weight loss is about trial and error
  • Accepting mistakes keeps you on track
  • Expectation of failure is part of reaching goals

The expectation of failure helps you lose weight. Accepting that sometimes you’re going to:

  • miss exercising
  • eat too much
  • not eat enough

and so on, can help you stay on track.

How you recover from mistakes can make or break you

Mistakes aren’t a big deal. It’s the choices you make after one you regret that matter.

When I was trying to lose weight I always aimed to stick to my diet perfectly. I wanted to prove I had willpower! But the perfect-is-important mindset worked against me. For instance, if I was at a birthday party and ate a piece of cake I’d say: I’ve already ruined my diet so I may as well keep eating.

You see? The first piece of cake isn’t the problem! It’s what you do after a choice you’re unhappy about that determines your success in the long run.

The expectation of failure prepares you

If you understand you’ll make mistakes, then you can plan to accept mistakes and carry on. This strategy keeps you moving toward your goals.

How do you carry on? By making a choice you feel good about, after one you regret.

At the moment I’m reading a book called Switch: How to change things when change is hard. It’s by Chip and Dan Heath.

In Chapter 7 they state:

Any new quest, even one that is ultimately successful, is going to involve failure. You can’t learn to salsa-dance without failing. You can’t learn to be an inventor, or a nurse, or a scientist, without failing … How do you keep … motivated …? The answer may sound strange: You need to create the expectation of failure – not the failure of the mission itself, but failure en route.

This advice might sound obvious, but it’s amazing how many people get frustrated after a mistake and give up. Or think a slip-up suggests they’re not good at something. In my case, I’d completely ruin the day to punish myself for a mistake. Then start a new diet the next morning.

Imagine if athletes called it a day and decided to re-start tomorrow as soon as they had a misstep. They’d never get any training done. Or if artists ripped up their work every time one stroke of color went wrong. They’d never complete a painting.

Make mistakes all the way to your goals

Health professionals, parents, the broadcasting world and every other field is full of people who mess up over and over again. They make mistakes all the way to their goals! Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight requires the same approach.

Winners lose much more often than losers. So if you keep losing but you’re still trying, keep it up! You’re right on track.”

– Matthew Keith Groves, entrepreneur

We need to accept that making mistakes is part of the process. Having an expectation of failure is an important part of reaching any goal.

The expectation of failure gives you permission to make mistakes

Understanding there will be ups and downs on the way to your goals, gives you permission to make mistakes. What does this mean? Knowing there’s trial and error involved gives you the freedom to try things that might not work. Like when you attempt something new or explore an idea on a whim. This opportunity is crucial. Breakthroughs often happen when things don’t go as planned. Like the discovery of the antibiotic, penicillin. Or even when we started fostering our dog. If the humane society hadn’t said it’s ok if it doesn’t work out, it may have been too intimidating to try. (Rocky has severe anxiety and can’t be left alone.) We’ve now lived with him for 4 wonderful years!

When I first started getting more relaxed about eating balanced meals, I’d always second guess my choices (after it was too late.) But when I didn’t fixate on a choice I regretted and instead, carried on toward my goals, I often discovered that I could eat certain foods I was afraid of. And larger portions than I thought I could.

Had I stuck to my initial weight-loss strategy of ruining the day after a mistake, I wouldn’t have realized it was no big deal to eat fried chicken instead of boiled. Or miss a workout. Or have dessert. Ruining the day by continuing to eat wouldn’t have given me the chance to learn.

Now I know the expectation of failure also means letting go of little things that bother you. It’s important to be flexible. Then you can reach and maintain a healthy weight. Rigid and restrictive eating are short-term approaches to weight loss.

…teams who failed made the mistake of trying to “get it right on the first try” … this mindset set the teams up for failure. By contrast, the successful teams focused on learning. They didn’t assume that mastery would come quickly, and they anticipated that they’d face challenges. In the end, they were the ones who were more likely to get it right. Failing is often the best way to learn, and because of that, early failure is a kind of necessary investment.

-Switch, Chapter 7

Expectation of failure gives us a chance to learn

Once you understand that the expectation of failure helps us:

  • accept mistakes
  • carry on
  • learn
  • reach your destination faster
  • maintain goals

it’s easier to keep moving forward after a misstep. Onward and upwards!

Lucky Nadal and Federer didn’t call it a day every time they botched a shoot by laughing!



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When you try something new do you build in the expectation of failure?