Our individual progress in life is marked with success and failure. It's what we deem to be success and failure that can make a big difference in how we feel we are doing.
As I work with my clients, I notice that they all have a similar pattern (it goes without saying that this pattern holds true for most of us). Initially, they experience great success in overcoming whatever it is that they came to see me about. However, at some point, there's a regression; they "mess up". Usually, I do my best to help them understand up front that this is likely to happen. However, no one likes to make mistakes and when they come to see me during a follow-up visit, they express some displeasure or concern over the event(s).
Typically, there's nothing to worry about. These remnants of an old habits or behavioral patterns have a way of resurfacing at times. This is what I call a regression. It's normal and to be expected. It's when they don't go away that it can become an area for concern.
Everybody's Got Something They're Working On
I shared that because it's important to understand that when we undertake the endeavor of change, there's going to be some set-backs. We're going to mess up and that's okay. One of the biggest mistakes we make is when we do mess up, we can tend to beat ourselves up a bit (if you don't do this, congrats, you're a rare card!).
Nobody likes to fail and when we do, it's not any fun. There's an emotional impact. It's typically negative. It's this emotional impact that becomes the core reason for repeated mistakes.
If at that moment of failure, we go to a negatively emotional place, we can unknowingly reinforce the bad habit or behavioral pattern. That is to say that we can reinforce the idea that we're a failure. It's at that moment that the sub-conscious mind understands the impact of what has happened and reasons that because of the failure, we must be a failure and failures do what we just did, therefore...rinse and repeat! Kind of messed up, isn't it?
There's A Way Forward
If you can catch yourself at that moment of failure, there's a chance you can reverse the existing trend. One way to do this is to immediately express the notion that you are succeeding in some regard. For example, if you are quitting smoking and you mess up, you can, at the moment that you extinguish your cigarette, say, "I am an ex-smoker" and begin to live as if you are (e.g. go for a walk or something that a non-smoker does that is somehow different than what you've been doing). The same holds true for other things, too.
For someone with chronic anxiety, he or she can, even after experiencing a full panic attack, reinforce the fact that they are calmer than before (which is ridiculously true but true non-the-less).
I can go on, but I think you get the point.
The idea is to avoid that "dark place". The place that reinforces the idea that you are the failure and not that you're a good person that made a mistake.
It takes time to accomplish this and possibly to even believe it, but it works! It doesn't mean that your life will suddenly be perfect but what it does mean is that you'll have a healthier, more positive outlook and potentially greater self-esteem. Wouldn't that be nice??