Avoidance is not failure

Sometimes in life we get to a point within certain areas where we feel it’s time for a change. After these areas and the changes are identified we start to develop a plan to achieve this. As we go through this planning stage we think of all of the different strategies that we can use to help us achieve our desired outcome. This is an important moment in our success because if we can implement a good clear plan there is a good chance that we will succeed in creating the change. 

Last week I had a conversation with someone who was trying to lose weight, I was interested in learning what her strategy was, so I asked her that very question. She started listing all the ways she was approaching this goal and it seemed that she had put a lot of thought into it and had a good plan in place. After she had explained her plan to me I asked her how she was going and if she was on track? She told me that she’s generally on top of it except when she jumps on the scales. If she doesn’t see a number on the scales that is heading in the downward direction she gets emotional and is hard on herself, this makes her lose focus and she then starts eating unhealthily for a period of time. She told me how this is a recurring theme and is the only thing that is putting her off her plan. 

You are probably thinking the same thing I was when I was talking to her, why doesn’t she get rid of the scales? I asked her this ‘so if you know that there’s a threat to your plan when you jump on the scales why don’t you get rid of them?’. Her answer was interesting ‘I feel I need to be a stronger person, that I should be able to get on the scales and not let them dictate how I feel about myself. If I was stronger this wouldn’t be a problem’. Just to confirm that I understood what she was saying I asked her ‘So you think that if you avoid the scales you are a failure?’, ‘yeah, that’s right’ she said ‘I should be able to control that emotion, not let it beat me’.

What’s interesting about this situation is that this person’s unsuccessful moments are based around her not allowing herself to use a really good strategy. In her mind she is a failure if she uses avoidance. The problem in her situation is that jumping on the scales is a high risk action so avoiding the scales is a great way for her to keep to her plan. 

I understand this completely. I remember when I first started triathlon, I felt that I had to make my training sessions as hard as possible. I would never even allow myself to listen to music as I saw this as contributing to having an easier session and I wanted to be mentally stronger. The problem with my strategy is that it wasn’t working, I wasn’t training that well. So one day I let go of my no music rule and allowed myself to listen to some of my favorite songs. It was the best ride I had in a long time and it made me realise that hitting the objective is the most important thing, in my case that objective was quality training rides. 

The key with strategies is to be able to recognise if they are taking you closer to your objective or moving you away from it. Ideally over time you are learning to use more of the strategies that take you closer to your desired outcome.

My question to you is: Do you have strategies which you have put criteria around that make you feel that you are bad or a failure if you use them? What if they could help you achieve your goal, that they could help you hit your outcome? For the person I mentioned above, avoidance wasn’t failure it was potentially a key strategy in her achieving her goal. 

It’s a good idea to spend time learning which strategies move you closer to what you want to achieve and then use them to your advantage. By doing this there’s a much higher chance of succeeding in your important areas. 


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Bevan Eyles