My girls love to cook, and my youngest always wants me to try her creations. The other day, she reheated some s’mores that she and her sister had made and wanted me to take a bite.
It was first thing in the morning, and I would normally never eat something so sweet that early. But I took a bite because it made her happy.
Back in my dieting days, this would have been a huge failure. I would have felt like I cheated and would have quit and had to start all over.
But now that I’m no longer held prisoner by the dieting mindset, my stray bite of chocolate had nothing to do with failing or cheating. And it had everything to do with a sweet bonding moment with my daughter.
I know how it feels to fail on a diet and, worse, to feel like you are the failure.
But what if you chose to see things differently?
Using Perspective to Your Advantage
Your perspective means the difference between success and failure — you just have to know how to use it to your advantage.
To do this you have to do one of two things: 1) see every failure as a learning opportunity or 2) reframe the entire scenario.
We’re pretty familiar with the first one. We know that we can learn from our failures if we choose to.
But you probably haven’t given much thought to the second tactic . . . although you use it a lot more than you realize.
Here are a few examples.
I’ve eaten my fair share of energy bars, and many of them basically amount to nothing more than a candy bar. However, since I thought of them as being healthy, eating them didn’t derail me.
At the same time, I’ve also eaten quite a few candy bars. And did I feel successful when I did? Hardly.
But what’s the difference between an energy bar and a Snickers bar? In many cases, not that much. So why was I able to see myself as being successful in one scenario but having failed in the other?
Because of my perspective.
Here’s another example.
I’ve missed many meals while traveling, sometimes going almost a whole day without food. I’ve also tried to go a whole day without taking a bite (during my psychotic dieting days).
Not surprisingly, it was a whole lot easier to go several hours without eating while going from one city to another than it was to sit in my house trying not to eat.
Also, in the first scenario, because I wasn’t trying not to eat, I didn’t really notice my hunger. But because I was deliberately restricting myself in the second scenario, all I could think about was how hungry I was.
Perspective helped me see things differently and therefore accomplish more. It prevented me from having to use willpower — then have it run out and fail.
How Changing Your Perspective Helps You Succeed
Have you ever used perspective to your advantage? You have, although likely inadvertently.
You’ve indulged and seen it as celebrating rather than having cheated and failed — like when you eat a slice of your own birthday cake or have an extra glass of champagne at a wedding.
And I’m sure you’ve been able to easily accomplish something that normally would require a ton of effort . . . because you’re doing something you love (like walk 10,000 steps on your European vacation) instead of something you hate (running on the treadmill).
Using your perspective in your favor also helps you gain insights you wouldn’t ordinarily get — the learning-from-the-failures part of the process. Let me use the travel example to illustrate.
Even though I felt hungry at the outset of my travels, my only food option was the lame crackers they give you on the plane. I elected not to eat those, and after about 30 minutes my hunger went away.
I learned three things from this experience: 1) just because I feel hungry doesn’t mean I really am hungry, 2) I don’t have to eat every time I do feel hungry, and 3) I can try waiting 30 minutes before eating to see if the hunger goes away before giving in to the urge to shove something down.
I used all three of these distinctions moving forward, which enabled me to not only achieve my weight-loss goal but also reinforce my commitment to living a healthy life.
Making distinctions is also hugely important because they help you stay objective instead of making everything personal. They keep you in the learning mindset (“Oh, now I get it”) instead of the blaming and shaming mindset (“I am so disgusting”).
Even doing something like eating an entire plate of French fries can be turned from a resounding failure into an ultimate success.
If you learn, for example, that not having had that glass of wine before your French fries arrived would have prevented you from scarfing them down, you’ve made a new distinction — in which case, you’ve succeeded. (And a new distinction + less wine and fewer fries = win/win!)
There’s No Such Thing as Failure
Don’t get me wrong. This perspective-change tactic isn’t an excuse to go off the rails and do whatever you want. Because there’s no faster way to feel disgusted, discouraged, and defeated — and then have to start all over again.
It’s to reinforce your awareness that you’re capable of making changes, that you’re anything but a failure, and that you’re much closer to your goal than you realize.
It may be challenging at first to find a positive takeaway from your slip-ups, but with practice you’ll get the hang of it.
When you change your perspective, failures become something that happened to you instead of something you are. So choosing the right perspective helps you see everything differently — including yourself.
Most importantly, when you change your perspective, you’ll see that there’s no such thing as failure.
“Failure” just means you’re one step closer to reaching your goal.