Most of us have at one point in our lives, have taken on a challenge of some sort, and failed.
If you are like me, it could have been; a no alcohol for the month of January challenge (fail), a 75 day challenge to wake up at 5am to run (failed), or a self-imposed I am not going to eat pizza for 30, 15, 10, 2 days (fail, fail, fail, SUCCESS!).
Whether it was a motivational Instagram post, a challenge from a loved one, or the spark you needed to get out of a rut, anyone that takes on a challenge should be commended because any progress towards a better you is a worthy cause that has unforeseen and unexpected gifts.
But what do we make of the fact that a whopping 92% of people never achieve the goals and challenges they take on? And more importantly, who are these 8% of people, and what magic lantern do they possess?
Here are the top 5 reasons people give up, and what to do about it.
1. Success Is Not a Straight Line
This describes any goal, any challenge, or any improvement we want to make.
Success never has and never will be a straight line. Motivation comes and goes, sickness happens, things pop up, life will always rear its head.
“It helps to think of weight loss as a staircase,” says Devon Golem, PhD, RD, director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics at New Mexico State University. “You’re going to have times when you see dramatic changes and then it will plateau for a while.”
Knowing and expecting this ahead of time will help minimize disappointment during the weeks when you feel like you aren’t seeing progress.
2. Monitor your self talk
Your brain’s main function is to maintain equilibrium, not push you, not motivate you, rather it prefers to not have anything change.
By taking on a new challenge or setting a goal for yourself you are upsetting routine and this will signal your brain to try to recover balance.
It does this by sending you messages, “go ahead and eat that pizza,” “you already made it 21 days, what is another 9?” “Love yourself the way you are!” “Ice Creeeeeeam NOW!”.
Understand, expect, and learn to sit back and let these thoughts flow in and out as you recognize controlling a changing brain means dealing with type of pushback.
3. Don’t Set Crazy Big Goals… Yet
If you have never done a 10-day or 30-day challenge then you need to set your goals accordingly. If this is your first challenge, or if you have failed all others, set a 5-day or 7-day goal.
Stephen Guise, author of Mini Habits says ” A mini habit is basically a much smaller version of a new habit you want to form. Mini habits are too small to fail; and so they lack the common destructive feelings of guilt and inadequacy that come with goal failure.”
Get some wins under your belt, feel good about getting better, and then step your goals up little by little.
4. You May Not Have Mental Markers for Success … Right Now.
On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister became the first person to run a sub-4 minute mile. Prior to this monumental event, the 4-minute mile barrier had developed such a mystique surrounding it that some considered it a physical impossibility.
But the next month the barrier was again shattered by John Landy, and in the following few years broken by almost a dozen more runners. Now, there are almost 900 men who have run a sub-4 minute mile, including a former high school student and a 40+ year-old man.
The moral of the story is that once you believe something is possible it becomes just that; possible. Even more powerful than knowing someone else can do it are markers of your own previous successes.
If you followed the advice to set micro goals on which to use as a foundation for the new you, going from a 14 day challenge to a 21 day challenge has a much higher success rate because your brain knows what that feels like.
5. Change Can Be Difficult …
But you actually wouldn’t want it to be easy.
There is the thing, and then there is the bigger thing. Let’s take a weight loss challenge for example. If you set out to lose 10 pounds in a month, and you succeed you did a lot more than lose those pounds.
You grew as a person and developed confidence, self-belief, discipline, and a host of other habits that translated into improvements in ALL other areas of your life.
In a wide ranging study, weight loss participants listed reduced medication, more money in their bank, raises/promotions at work, along with better sleep, better sex, and 68% of respondents even said that their food tasted better!
If change was easy, if dropping that extra 10-15 was as simple as a pill or a shake, you would not get the host of benefits that come along with succeeding at a difficult challenge.
If you have ever spoken to someone who has lost a significant amount of weight, what do they go on and on about? It isn’t usually the weight.
It is how their clothes fit, how they feel, the thing that they were missing out on that they can now do with their kids, it’s the way they carry themselves, feel about themselves, and usually continue to push themselves in their career, their relationships, and their life.
So when your road gets tough, there is a saying from military “embrace the suck,” that is a good mantra for those that know of the gifts that lie just on the other side of where you currently are.
For the thespians amongst us, Shakespeare put it like this: “Let thee embrace me, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.”
You got this.