I work with high-performing men and women who have experienced incredible success in their lives or careers in some way, yet often feel like something, somewhere is missing. That is a tough and sometimes even disorienting situation, especially when you’re unsure of what type of help is available to you, or where to turn for it! As a result, in many cases, these high performers have spent some time trying to find ways to alleviate their struggles or find a quick fix for their happiness or satisfaction prior to finding me.

That’s why it’s not uncommon for new clients to come to me with existing habits and patterns that are disrupting their lives negatively in some way. This looks a little bit different for everybody, but these patterns typically fall into the “vice” category: things like gambling, overeating, overdrinking, people-pleasing, or addiction to pornography.

Regardless of how the negative pattern or behavior is actually manifesting itself, there is one powerful key to successfully reversing it: how they approach this work.

Those who fluctuate between starting, stopping, and judging themselves throughout the process just don’t get it done. Period. The ones who approach thought work with curiosity instead of judgment are successful.

When you are trying to break free from overdrinking, overeating, excessive porn use, or people-pleasing, it is inevitable that you are going to make mistakes. Let me repeat that: YOU WILL MAKE MISTAKES. That’s okay! The differentiator lies within how you bounce back from those mistakes, and frankly, the clients that don’t make it mean that there is something wrong with them have much higher success rates.

Why? Because those clients are in a state of curiosity instead of judgment. This grants them the ability to learn from their mistakes rather than assume they’re “un-fixable” and throw in the towel altogether. This knowledge keeps them in the game and propels them forward.

Here’s an example to put it into context:

Let’s say that you want to stop overdrinking. After successfully reducing your alcohol intake for several weeks, you then overdo it one weekend at a graduation party. If you’re like most, you will wake up the next morning, not feeling well physically, but also beating yourself up mentally. You make this mistake mean that something is wrong with you, and this one slip up is enough to convince you that you will never be able to stop overdrinking. This quickly leads to feelings of helplessness and discouragement, and unfortunately, many people will adopt a “what’s the point?” mentality and quit.

How might this situation play out if instead, you were able to change that judgment to curiosity? By approaching the situation with an inquiring mind and investigative attitude, you are able to learn from this experience and change your future behavior as a result of the knowledge gained from the investigation.

When my clients are trying to break a negative pattern or habit and they veer off course, I have them answer some of the following questions:

  1. How much did I eat, drink, or veer off-plan?
  2. What were the circumstances that triggered it?
  3. What was the thought that created the desire or urge to want to do more?
  4. Did I try to resist or did I just react?
  5. Did I try to allow the urge? What worked and what didn’t?
  6. What did I learn?
  7. What will I do differently next time a similar situation presents itself?

We write this all out and we simply move on. I’ve even made it easy for you with a printable version of these questions! Grab it here.

We don’t make it mean that we are a terrible person, or that we are never going to achieve our goal. Alternatively, we work on staying open, honest, and curious instead of being judgemental towards ourselves and ultimately shutting down.

Be willing to keep failing, so long as you’re also ready to get back up – and fail again! It won’t be perfect, and it’s not always easy, but it does get easier and eventually, even effortless. Plus, you get to learn from these failures until you reach your goal, and that is a truly beautiful thing.

The next time you make a mistake on the way to achieving a big goal, I encourage you to go easy on yourself. Remain curious and complete your investigation by answering the questions above, and then simply move on. Remember, this approach leads to success, while judgment leads to quitting.

Don’t forget, you can also download the Write it Down and Move On worksheet to help you move past your setbacks and break free from false pleasures once and for all! If you are struggling to break a negative pattern, or want to explore this topic in greater detail, I invite you to schedule a time to chat. I’m rooting for you!

Mind Your Strength,

Melanie Shmois

Melanie Shmois, MSSA, LISW-S

Melanie Shmois, MSSA, LISW-S, is a licensed social worker, holding a Master’s Degree (MSSA) from Case Western Reserve University and a B.A. in Sociology with a minor in Spanish. After spending 2 decades helping others achieve their mental and personal goals, Melanie worked with Master Coach Instructor, Brooke Castillo, and became a certified Life and Weight Coach through the Life Coach School.


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