One of the things that keeps people stuck in failure is a principle called “Moving Goalposts”. Anytime we succeed, our mind does a flip, and turns a success into a failure.
We might feel like a failure because we’re out of shape, we don’t wake up on time, we cannot follow through with our intentions, etc. So we set goals for ourselves. But our mind does something really tricky when we try to make a change.
If you feel out of shape, you might eat something healthy on one day. But instead of accepting that success, your mind might tell you “Oh, I should have done this a while ago. Why didn’t I start sooner?” It might even set the goal, “We’re going to start eating healthy EVERY day now.”
Our mind takes one success and turns it into a failure. We beat ourselves for not taking action earlier.
Even though we are taking a step in the right direction, instead of being inspired and motivated by it, we beat ourselves up over it. We transform the success into a failure about the past. It might say, “Oh, I should have been eating healthy my entire life.”
The second thing our mind does is that it takes a success and moves the goalpost. “Oh, I ate healthy today, now I will eat healthy tomorrow.” The goal that you woke up with today was to eat healthy TODAY. The goal was not to eat healthy for the next week or the next month, or the next year. It was a small goal that you can accomplish. You can take one step at a time. But our mind takes success and moves the goalpost, which destines us for failure.
For example, if you eat healthy for one day, your mind will tell you “I am going to eat healthy for the entire week now”. But you may not be capable of doing that. You can eat one healthy meal a day, and you have done that — it was a success. You take one step forward and then suddenly expect so much more from yourself. You change the way you define success.
As a result, you start believing that you are a failure everyday. However, you are not a failure everyday. You actually succeed on many days. The problem is that you don’t let yourself sit with that success. You don’t pat yourself on the back for it. You move the goalposts on yourself and then expect so much more from yourself than you are capable of.
When you inevitably fail, you feel shameful. You feel lazy and undisciplined. You compare yourself to people who are further along than you. That’s not what you should wish. You should wish for exactly what you have accomplished.
For example, instead of hoping to eat a salad every day, you should wish that every now and then, you could eat a salad. That is the goalpost that you originally set for yourself and if you don’t let yourself move it, you can succeed.
As you do this, you become a different person. Instead of being someone who fails all the time, and thus, “is” a failure, you become a person who succeeds sometimes and fails sometimes. That is wildly different from being someone who fails ALL the time, as a result of moving your goalposts.
Its because of our negative perception of ourselves. If you view myself as a complete failure, the only success that will balance that is a HUGE one.
For example, if you are 300 lbs overweight, you might not think that it is good enough for you to eat a salad one day a week. You might have this perception that you are so overweight, that you are so much of a failure, that you have to balance that with a big success. It is the only way to make up for that deficit. If you have dropped out of college, you might feel that the only way to redeem yourself is to go to a prestigious institution like Harvard — community college just isn’t good enough for you.
You feel like such a failure, that there is no way a small success can make up for that failure. You have to make up for lost time. You move the goalposts because you view yourself as a failure.
But once you start to see yourself as someone who fails sometimes and succeeds sometimes, then suddenly you don’t have to move the goalposts as much. You don’t have to be an absolute success. You’re a success about half the time, so you only have to move the goalpost a tiny bit, not a huge amount.
The less you start moving goalposts, the more successful you become. The more successful you become, the less you feel like a failure, and the less you have to move goalposts. It turns from a cycle of failure into a cycle of success.
When you start to expect yourself to be perfect every day, that is when you doom yourself to failure. Acknowledge where you are and do the best you can. Expect less from yourself and let yourself be a little bit worse than you actually are.