Why We Fall Short
Let me begin with stating that I am nowhere near perfect and struggle with failure on a daily basis. Just ask my wife. Failure can be seen as a subjective term because it completely relies on whether expectations are met or not. Two people with different expectations, performing the same task, getting the same result, could experience completely different emotions. Failure is simply not meeting or surpassing an expectation.
The failure that I am talking about is in relation to not meeting goals or not living the life we desire to live. We want and yearn for many things in life, but tend to fall short the majority of the time. Why is this? In my opinion, it all comes down to two things:
Pain avoidance and pleasure seeking.
Yes, these are common topics everyone has probably heard or read about in a Psychology 101 class or in a news article. But let’s specifically look at how these two verbs affect the outcomes in our lives.
Let’s start with weight loss, a very common goal that most people struggle with and give up on. Assuming the person approached the goal using a simple yet effective strategy of using facts and specificity, it would look something like this.
Goal: I am going to lose 10 pounds. When: I want to accomplish this in 10 weeks. How: Based on my Basal Metabolic Rate, I need to eat less than 1800 calories per day.
Now that the goal is set and can be measured, the next step is executing the plan. Now this is where things get tough. Eating is part of our physiological needs and according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it comes before everything else. When we are hungry, it tends to be the only thing we think about until the need is met.
But the reason why a lot of people are overweight is because of the amount they consume to satisfy the hunger. Most people would be surprised on how little food we need to survive. We have wired our brains to think we need to eat until we are “full” instead of just the right amount. This has happened because most people eat what tastes good and what gives them pleasure. Eat more, experience more pleasure. This cycle repeating over time leads to weight gain.
So after the weight loss has started, the decision on what and how much to eat must be made with the understanding that pain is going to be experienced. Choosing to eat only half the portion while eating at a fancy restaurant is going to be a choice that causes mental pain. Pain might be experienced when your friends look at you like you are crazy. Choosing to eat a salad instead of a cheeseburger will definitely cause pain. But the more painful decisions you make, the more your expectations change for the better.
People eventually fail the weight loss plan because they eventually give into what makes them feel good and doesn’t cause them pain. The ironic part of this is the pleasure experienced from food only lasts as long as the food is on the tongue. The logical decision would be to eat less in the short-term so we experience more pleasure in the long-term with a healthier body that promotes self-esteem and confidence.
At the end of the day, we are human and make bad decisions based on emotion rather than logic. It is what makes us human. But understanding this fact and setting positive habits in our lives is how we accomplish the goals that lead to long-term happiness. Decisions based on short-term pleasure will always exist and that is ok. But the more we accept the fact that growth and improvement is only achieved through experiencing pain, more goals will be accomplished, which leads to a life filled with long-term joy.
We all have better versions of ourselves deep in our souls, but it can only be found through pain. Examine your life, set your goals, reset your expectations, and embrace the pain. Do it now and start your journey to long-term joy.