changing for good

10 Lessons to Learn from Failure to Change

“I can’t change. I’ve tried over and over again. I’ll do really well for a few weeks and then I slide back into my old habits. I’ve lost 20lbs before, gained it all back and then some. I used to exercise and then I had kids. Change is too hard, expensive, time-consuming, slow, fill-in-the-blank.”

How about you? Do you ever feel like you take one step forward only to fall two steps back? Did you know that’s extremely common and even, dare I say it, normal without help?! Here’s the catch, those who succeed and achieve their goals expect setbacks, seek help and learn from their failures.

To strengthen change efforts, there are at least ten important lessons to be learned from failure to change.1

1. Few efforts at change succeed the first time around. Less than 20% of the population is successful with changing their first go at it. You are not an outlier.

2. Trial and error are inefficient. It’s not enough to try things and see what sticks. We also have to be willing to learn from those experiences (good and bad) and work with that knowledge. Have you ever heard of having a growth mindset? If you’re unfamiliar with that term, check out this short explanatory video here.

3. Changes cost more than we budget. This may be in terms of time, energy or money. Some of us will even accept that we didn’t get in our health predicaments overnight (though many think they do). We may even accept that it’ll take some time to establish new habits and routines to regain our health. However, many of us think that willpower alone is enough to lead us to success. I’m going to burst that bubble now because it’s not.

4. Using the wrong processes at the wrong time. This includes:

  • Becoming misinformed: Having inaccurate or outdated data.
  • Misusing willpower: We cannot will every change.
  • Substituting one bad behavior for another: This one is self explanatory.

5. Be prepared for complications. Problems often coexist. For example, women who struggle with self-control in one area of life likely struggle with it in other areas. These different areas of life will impact one another.

6. The path to change is rarely a straight one. Amen! Check out the image below… Change more often looks like the second drawing. What’s the beauty of that? Even during the ups, downs, twists and turns, progress is being made and you’re still further than you were to begin with!change line

7. A lapse is not a relapse. One mess-up is not failure! Acknowledge it, learn from it and move on.

8. Mini-decisions lead to maxi-decisions. We need to realize that it’s the small decisions (that become habits on a regular basis) that lead to a relapse. It’s when we say, I’ll only have sweets on special occasions. This may start as birthday parties and weddings and turn into the smallest of celebrations (my kids got all A’s, the dog is finally housebroken, it’s the weekend-TGIF!).

9. Distress precipitates relapse. The most common cause of any relapse is distress. Ongoing, unprocessed emotions or a fight with a loved one, would be examples of this. We have to learn better coping mechanisms and chances are, what we’ve been doing since we were children is no longer working. There is a reason we’re in the predicaments we’re currently in.

10. Learning translates into action. It’s an actual phenomenon that people who start thinking about change, somehow feel as if they are changing. In some ways this is true. We must think things through and plan. Far too many of us get stuck in chronic contemplation and then when we relapse, we fail to actually take the steps needed to get back on track.

Here’s the thing. Changing our behavior IS possible. I don’t care if you’ve failed 50 times at what you’re trying to change. There are as many reasons things went as they did previously as there is potential for real, lasting change. Need someone to walk you through that change? Schedule your free 30 minute Discovery Call today to learn more!

Until next time…

Take care,



  1. Based off of  “The Ten Lessons of Relapse” from the book Changing for Good by Prochaska, Norcross amd Diclemente.