The title of this blog post is a little bit inaccurate. It says you can overcome PMS, which is true, but what this post is really about is that you can do any number of very difficult things, as long as you're not willing to stop trying.
A study came out a long time ago, and I can't find the reference now, but I want to discuss it anyway. It was a study of smokers who had quit and smokers who had tried to quit, and it asked them all how many times they had tried to quit. The conclusion was, the more times someone tried to quit, the more likely they were to eventually, finally, succeed.
That seems obvious enough, right? Until, that is, you turn it on its head. The people most likely to succeed were the ones who failed the most. One person tries to quit twice, it doesn't work, they learn their lesson and stop trying, and they never "fail" at quitting again. The problem is, they're still smoking. Yes, they've avoided the pain and embarrassment of not succeeding. But they're still doing something destructive to their own body (and the bodies of those around them who breathe the second-hand smoke).
However, the person who doggedly keeps trying to quit smoking probably tries all kinds of outlandish things. They put up with raised eyebrows from friends who have heard about the latest "miracle cure" many times already. They bear the disappointment of family every time they seemingly succeed, quitting for a few weeks, or a few months, or a few years, only to become addicted to tobacco again. And yet... and yet... they keep trying, keep "failing"... and eventually emerge as the biggest winners when they quit for good. Their success has everything to do with their willingness to "fail."
I think this has a lot to tell us about life as a whole. I think so many of us—and I include myself in this, for sure—spend our lives trying not to fail. And, before you think you've seen this movie before, I'm not going to go into a long diatribe about how you should be trying to succeed rather than trying not to fail, or that you should visualize coming out on top or live your best life now (sorry, Oprah!). My point is really much simpler than that, or at any rate I think it ought to be easier to achieve.
By accepting that "failure" is part of life, you no longer just "accept" failure. By that I mean, if you know in your bones that trying new things is likely to be difficult, frustrating, and that you probably won't succeed on the first or second or fifth try, those setbacks and "failures" won't defeat you. Most people think that accepting failure means that you stop trying. I think accepting that failure is part of any difficult undertaking means that you keep trying, because you no longer expect things to be easy and without struggle.
Here's an example different from smoking: learning to ride a bike. Somehow, most children seem to be able to learn to ride a bike pretty readily. How do they learn? It goes something like this: get on, fall off, bump knee, get on, ride a little, fall off, get back on. For some reason, when it comes to learning to ride a bike, most children seem immune to the pain of repeated failure (I have no doubt that in many cases this is because of the support and persistence and foresight of their parents!). But it is interesting because I can almost guarantee you that there other areas of life where that same child refuses to be twice-burned by failure, and will simply refuse to do something difficult.
It's a marvelous example, but no one reading this blog is a seven-year-old child, so there must be another example that is more germane to adults. How about the choice between changing your diet and lifestyle and taking some healthy supplements in order to get your body back in balance and finally free yourself from PMS, naturally? Or, maybe to lose some weight and lower your cholesterol level instead of resorting to a drug. I think one of the attractions of prescription drugs is that very few people fail at taking one pill per day. The drug is really the painless way, not just because eating less, or eating better, might result in hunger pangs, or in having to eat less of the foods we've come to love (and that we know aren't so good for us).
Changing your diet is hard because it inevitably involves repeated failure, sometimes more than once per day! You vow not to dip into the donuts at the break room, but you rushed out the door and got to work starving, and you have to eat something, and then it's not even nine in the morning and you're already off track. You've already "failed."
My opinion is that that is only a failure if you say: "Oh forget it, this is too hard, I can't even succeed at this diet plan for one morning." What if you "failed" at every meal and snack for a week—which adds up to somewhere between 21 and 40 "failures" in a week. That might seem like a lot for one week. On the other hand, at the end of that week you'd know pretty much every speed bump and obstacle in the road, and you might realize that you need to pack your breakfast the night before or that to succeed you'll need to get to bed earlier so that you can get up earlier. In other words, your "failures" can teach you the lessons that lead to your success, if you can bear the pain and disappointment of not succeeding right away. And that pain is dramatically lessened if, as I mentioned above, you don't expect things to be easy.
There are two problems with the scenario I just described. The first is, most of us don't learn from a mere 20 or 40 or 100 failures. Instead, we keep making the same mistakes over and over. I'm not going to bore you with the particulars of my mistakes, but I assure you that my high rate of failure is very promising indeed! The second is, I think a more common scenario is not that someone tries, immediately fails, and sticks with it through repeated failures to get to the success, but rather that you get off to a great start, which leads you to think "this is going to be easy!" So, you do really well on a new healthy or weight loss diet for a few days or a week or a month—and then, when you hit that speed bump, or fall off the wagon altogether (my apologies for the mixed metaphors), you give up, because, lo and behold, it is very difficult.
The essential idea of this study—that failure is a prerequisite for success, and that people who fail more succeed more—is related to many parts of life, but especially the relationship between our lifestyles, our habits, and our health and wellness.
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