What Happens When You Mess up?


What’s the worst part of being human?

Being Human!

A little obvious but the answer runs deeper than you might think. If being human means anything, it means that eventually given time (usually a few minutes) something will happen that makes you angry, changes your plans, or leads you to some other attitude you had vowed to stay away from. It reminds me of the story of the man who was praying to God:

So far today Lord, I’ve done really good. I haven’t gotten angry, become jealous, lied, cheated, stole, or even yelled at anybody, but in 5 minutes I’m gonna get out of bed and I’m gonna need your help!

So what do you do when you do or say something you shouldn’t have? The best answer to that question is…nothing. What can you do? Let’s say you have devoted yourself to a new way of eating. And after a few days in you’re feeling pretty tempted by that frosted donut from Krispy Kreme. Maybe you justify it in your mind by thinking that you’ll do some extra cardio, or you’ll have a small lunch so you go for the donut. Maybe one wasn’t quite enough so you have two, or maybe even three.

At this point, guilt sets in along with the feeling of failure. What have I done? Why do I always fail? Why can’t I just stick to my diet? These questions will enter your mind, but the thing to remember is that these are not the right questions to ask. Those questions are meant to help you decide not to cheat again on your diet, but instead they do just the opposite. They load you with the idea that you have failed and that the only way to succeed is to start over and change what you’ve been doing.

By admitting defeat, all the work you’ve already done is now relegated to another failed attempt. Being that you’ve already messed up today, there’s no reason to not have a big lunch with all that food you’ve been craving. This leads to eating a big dinner and the embarrassment of admitting you have once again not stuck to your plans.

Instead of taking that mental path, do nothing! Eating a donut (or 5) is not the end of your diet; it’s a choice you made that doesn’t line up with who you are now. Instead of feeling guilty, decide that what happened was a rare occasion and that it won’t happen again. Go on eating the way the new you eats and chalk the “mistake” up to the old you having a flare up. By doing this, you don’t reinforce the old behavior by conning yourself into self defeating thoughts that only lead to negative behavior.

  • Positive thoughts lead to positive behavior, negative thoughts lead to negative behavior.

Quitting smoking is another thing that the “do nothing” philosophy applies to. If you haven’t smoked for a week and then you slip and have one, don’t think you’re a smoker trying to quit, you already have quit, now you’re working on making that decision stick. One smoke is not enough reason to call yourself a failure, and it sure isn’t enough to make you decide to return to your old behavior.

The essence of all this is what I call the “two brain theory”. Whenever we make positive life changes there remains a small tiny part of your brain that for whatever reason longs for the “good ol’ days”. This “other brain” kicks in during times of weakness, despair, fear, confusion, failure, or other challenging times. If enough attention is given to this brain, you can easily slide into a decision you didn’t want to make.

If you find yourself struggling with this “other brain” the best thing to do is ignore it and use logic (your new brain) to turn off the “other brain”. Tell yourself all the positive great things you have going on in your life.

On the night of my final exam I got stuck at my store way passed closing and was running late for class. The last customer to come in returned his merchandise which meant the money I thought I had made that day was instantly gone. To make matters even worse as I walked to my car it started pouring down rain, and I was holding my portable tape player in my hand so it got wet! Needless to say when I got in my car I was feeling a bit upset.

At that point I was faced with a choice. Do I let these negative outside events affect my mood, or do I make the decision to rise above the circumstances and remain positive. I began speaking out loud saying all the good things I had going on for me.

  • I’ve lost a lot of weight, and I’m only going to lose more and more.
  • After tonight, I’ll have my AA degree, and soon my BA.
  • I own my own business, and it’s doing pretty well.
  • I am working on a novel and have help getting it published
  • I have mentors in my life that believe in me and help me.
  • I have friends and family that care for me
  • I have a successful blog (working on that one… 🙂 )

Nothing in the physical world changed from when I left the store in the rain until I got out of my car at the college, but my thought life was drastically improved. I felt happier and more prepared for my final exam. I was smiling and feeling great as I walked into class. I call this technique opening your “Positivity Toolbox”. When you have a problem, use your positive affirmations to take attention away from the temporary problem and focus on the permanent success you are experiencing in your life. So when anything negative comes you, use your Positivity Toolbox to repair your thinking.

I recommend you create your own positivity toolbox to help when you’re faced with such situations. Take a moment and list all the things you have succeeded in so far and write them down. Use these whenever you feel the “other brain” picking up steam. By focusing on the successes you have in your toolbox, you will quickly put to flight the negative thoughts that are trying to take hold of you again. Being human, though, you might lose your temper or make a wrong choice from time to time. But the great part of being human is that you can instantly stop that behavior and continue on your path. Self Improvement doesn’t happen overnight. It happens day by day, choice by choice, and moment by moment. So make the choice today to be in control of your thoughts, to make the right decisions, and to press on with your goals day in and day out, no matter what happens around you.

Be Sociable, Share!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Click on a tab to select how you'd like to leave your comment

Leave a Reply to Christine Kane Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

5 thoughts on “What Happens When You Mess up?

  1. Well said.
    Every paragraph meaningful.
    You are the man.

    Instead of getting angry and in a negative mood about the customer return, the rain, the tapeplayer, running late… you decided to concentrate on the positives in your life and the big picture. THE thing to do!


  2. Great post. This is my biggest challenge in life right now. I’ve done all kinds of work, healing, recovery, etc etc. And now it comes down to recognizing the power of my thoughts and my emotions. It’s a profound learning, and somewhat daunting at times. (You don’t have an RSS for Google homepage, by the way! I’ve bookmarked you the old fashioned way.)

  3. Hey Mike, I loved this. I thought I was late reading it, but it turned out to be the exact right time, having just dealt with a situation here that called for either getting pulled into it and getting down in the process, or rising above it and coming out with a better attitude and having learned something. =) I love your explainations, examples, terms like toolbox! and the points in the grey boxes. Awesome site…it’s a true joy coming here. And that means the material and writer are what’s really awesome. Thank you and keep focusing on what you choose is your reality. =) You’re doing great and going places!

  4. This was a very good article, Mike! I will remember these things next time I get upset. And I can’t wait to read your other articles. Keep it up!