When you miss a goal or make some sort of mistake, get knocked down, etc, how long does it take you to get back up? Do you punish yourself, or do you learn the lesson and move on?
This was the topic of a recent Zoom call I participated in with fellow business owners. So today I’ll discuss punishment, and while this post is geared mainly toward the humans, I’ll incorporate some “dog stuff” in the second part.
At the start of the conversation I felt myself get my back up just a little. I thought our coach was saying we shouldn’t even allow ourselves to feel the emotions of disappointment. I thought she was suggesting we ignore them or push them down and just move on.
Why did this bother me?
Because in the past, I read a lot of books and listened to a lot of “successful” people suggest just that. I also learned some not very helpful lessons in my younger years that my emotions weren’t valid, and as a result I began to hide them.
Guess what. That is not healthy.
Thank God for the therapist I finally found who talked to me about allowing my emotions — I call it “feeling the feels” (often with great alliteration of another F-word in there). He taught me the difference between having emotions, feeling disappointed, and feeling shame.
Shame is generally not healthy. I’m not a mental health professional, so I’m not going to suggest there is never a place for shame.
But where does that leave us when we mess up? Do we wallow in that mistake and give up? Do we eventually try again? How long does it take you to say, “So what, now what?” (That’s the phrase our coach used, and I’m now stealing it as my own.)
She suggested that fast is better than slow. I agree.
But I also think that fast and slow mean different things to different people. For me, slow used to mean days, weeks, or even months before I could get back up and try again — if I bothered to try again at all. Nowadays it can be hours, but still sometimes days. Very occasionally it’s mere minutes.
I think getting back up is the MOST important part, more than the speed of it. If you’re not used to considering how long it takes you to move on, or if you’re someone whose default is to just give up, then let’s go ahead and start with slow. It’s still faster than not at all.
But as you practice forgiving yourself and learning the lesson without the shame, then you’ll start getting there faster.
Ultimately that’s the goal — So what, now what? And move on. But baby steps are just fine.
And another thing: phone a friend
Our coach also talked about not self-isolating in these moments. Ugh, that’s a tough one. Add a pandemic to it, and holy sh*t!
But she’s right. Find a person — a friend, mentor, a group, whatever fits for you — you can call or visit and share your moment of failure (real or perceived) and the feelings surrounding it. Someone (or group) who will just listen, and that’s it.
Do I follow this practice well? Not often enough, even though I know it’s very good advice. And not everybody is the right kind of person to share your “failures” with. Even the most well-intentioned friends and family can handle these situations in not the best way.
My coach said the best thing someone can do for another person sharing these feelings of disappointment is to just listen and then say, “Yeah, that really sucks.”
That’s it. Don’t try to fix it. Don’t add reasons for punishment. Nothing. Agree that it sucks. The consequence of whatever you missed your mark on, sucks. It doesn’t feel good.
But now what? Where are you going from this point? That’s the type of person or group I want you to seek out, and I suggest you try to be as well.
The cycle of overwhelm, failure, and wallowing
When I first failed at filling out my dog treat registration application, I let myself wallow for too long. I felt like an absolute idiot, a stupid failure. (Super great self-talk there, right?)
I set it aside, and because it was a very busy time for me between my divorce, moving, my other business’ busy time of year, and the holidays fast approaching, I easily used those as excuses to not get focused on it again.
And some of that is valid. It’s one of the things I deal with on a daily basis — I can get overwhelmed easily.
If I don’t remind and allow myself to take a beat and then prioritize, then everything feels like it’s the same level of importance. Everything feels like it’s coming at me at once, and it feels like a tornado swirling all around me, sucking me in, and I begin to think I have no control. Then I shut down.
This doesn’t happen as often anymore, but it definitely still happens. If I don’t recognize the feeling of overwhelm as it’s creeping up, take a breath and use my strategies, the overwhelm takes over, and it’s all over. At least for the moment.
And that’s what I did with the treats. I didn’t feel confident that I would get it right if I tried again, and I would have to give up on my dream. I would feel like an utter failure, and I would be letting down the people around me who are cheering me on.
Silly, right? Because if I didn’t try again, then THAT WAS giving up on my dream. Anxiety and fear play terrible tricks on our minds.
With some nudging from my business partner/sister, I got refocused and tried again. This time, I reached out and asked questions. Hopefully I got it right this round. But one thing I know is that if I made mistakes again, I can fix them and try again. And this time around, I will try again right away. And I am already closer to my goals.
Another person on our Zoom call said something I have heard many times before, but this time it really stuck. She said, “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying.”
What I heard is that not only is it okay to fail, but it’s expected from time to time.
In that moment, she gave me permission to not only fail, but to forgive myself, learn the lesson, and get back up to try again.
What about the dogs?
So let’s talk about life with our dogs.
Have you been trying something with your dog, maybe training — something like walking well on leash, but just not succeeding? Do you find that you often just give up and decide, “My dog is just going to be a puller when we walk?”
Or maybe you’ve even given up walking her altogether.
And then you feel guilty, because you know darn well she needs those walks.
But when you or another family member or friend do walk her again, she’s practically impossible. The poor girl has pent-up energy and just doesn’t understand what’s expected. Then you feel like a failure — again. You know you should be working on it, but past experience has led you to believe (falsely) that you stink and just can’t do it.
What a terrible, never-ending circle of falling short and then punishing yourself.
Stop beating yourself up. It doesn’t do you or your dog any good. Understand that training does not come easily to every person, nor to every dog, but it IS possible with every human and every dog.
Just like learning anything else new, there is always more than one way and more than one fit. It might take a bit more time up front for you to find a new technique (or a few techniques) that will work for both you and your dog, but you absolutely CAN do it.
Also, not every trainer is the right fit. Just like not every doctor, coach, therapist, or even restaurant is the right fit. Find one that works for you and fits your style.
Please recognize, though, that you do need to do the work in between the weekly lessons with the trainer. I see too many people not follow through on their end, and then believe it’s the trainer’s fault or the dog’s fault.
Make an honest assessment of what’s going on there. But again, no shame, just learn the lesson, adjust course, and move on.
So where are you in this progression? Have you already mastered the skill of understanding you don’t need to punish yourself to learn a lesson and just move on? Are you stuck tormenting yourself to the point of almost giving up? Or are you somewhere in between and working on it?
What can I do to help you? Do you need tips or strategies on how to deal with that self talk? Or tips concerning your dog? Please let me know. Or come join and share it in our community on Facebook where we can all help one another!