Failure is part of success

Early in my medical education, I have learned an important point: failure is part of success. Not just personally, but in many of my classes. In medicine, we see failure as a step towards success which is often inevitable and repetitive.


You are trying to quit smoking, lose those extra pounds, make it to the gym daily, spend more time with yourself, study more, overthink less, eat healthier, love more, worry less, be more productive at work, take online lessons, spend more time with loved ones… we are all on the way of making something different in our lives. But, no matter what you are trying to achieve you will fail… and often, you will fail MISERABLY! And that is a necessary step for most changes that we are trying to implement in our life.


Research has shown that every time that you fail while trying to achieve something (eg. quit smoking), the more likely you are to succeed next time you try. So don’t beat yourself up for failing. Do not predict failing, but consider it as part of the learning process. They say: expect the best, prepare for the worst.


So you didn’t make it to the gym today, or you ordered a BigMac, or you just spent hours in bed snoozing instead of spring cleaning. THAT IS NO BIG DEAL, as long as you accept it as a step towards success.

“Time enjoyed wasting is not wasted” – John Lennon

Below is the medical explanation for what I am trying to convey to you: The Stages of Change that we use for all patients that are trying to make a change in their life. If you want to quit smoking, for example, and you go see your doctor. We identify at which stage of change you are and thus provide support, treatment and advice to help you move to the next stage. AT ANY POINT, someone can fail (or “relapse”).

This is what we used to think in the past: the path towards success is rigid and linear.


And this is how we see it today: the path towards success is a very flexible, individualized, up and down, complex process.

Stages of Change

I will not go into the details of this graph, but if you are interested in a more in-depth explanation click here. Notice that, in the Stages of Change, relapse is not only a stage towards successful changes in life but you can also exit and enter in any stage at any time. The path towards success is not a rigid pre-determined one. Everyone is different and the key is to know yourself enough to recognize your mental abilities, limitations, efforts, and be your own best friend.


Here are a few tips that we use in medicine to maximize our patients’ success:

  1. Consciousness Raising – Increasing awareness about the healthy behavior.
  2. Dramatic Relief – Emotional arousal about the health behavior, whether positive or negative arousal.
  3. Self-Reevaluation – Self reappraisal to realize the healthy behavior is part of who they want to be.
  4. Environmental Reevaluation – Social reappraisal to realize how their unhealthy behavior affects others.
  5. Social Liberation – Environmental opportunities that exist to show society is supportive of the healthy behavior.
  6. Self-Liberation – Commitment to change behavior based on the belief that achievement of the healthy behavior is possible.
  7. Helping Relationships – Finding supportive relationships that encourage the desired change.
  8. Counter-Conditioning – Substituting healthy behaviors and thoughts for unhealthy behaviors and thoughts.
  9. Reinforcement Management – Rewarding the positive behavior and reducing the rewards that come from negative behavior.
  10. Stimulus Control – Re-engineering the environment to have reminders and cues that support and encourage the healthy behavior and remove those that encourage the unhealthy behavior.

And now you know! So hopefully you will be more tolerant and open towards the efforts that you make, and you will be able to make your environment work for you, not beat yourself up when you fail, and recognize at which stage of change you are.

Live healthy ❤


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