In middle school, I decided to sign up for track with 3 of my best friends. And honestly…I sucked at it.
It wasn’t that I was slow or bad at running. There wasn’t a lack of physical ability. It was just that there was a mental block, holding me back from getting to full speed.
My coaches tried to amp me up, my teammates attempted to give me advice, but none of it stuck. My mind just wouldn’t let my legs move any faster, even though I knew with certainty that it was possible.
Then one day while my friends and I were walking home from practice, we ran a pitbull that was wandering the streets. It charged at us and - like fireworks - we took off in different directions.
Of course I was the unlucky one who the dog decided to chase.
I literally ran for my life that day. I ran so fast that it felt like time slowed down. I felt a sense of flow that I had never experienced before, and even though my safety was on the line, I enjoyed how I felt in that moment.
When I finally stopped and turned around, the dog was gone. I had not only managed to ditch it, but I had somehow broken free of that mental block.
A study at the Baletis Lab showed that the chances of reaching your goals nearly double when you foreshadow failure, compared to when you foreshadow success.
When we think about this in real world situations, it’s not all that surprising.
The smoker who finally quits because they realize how much time they’re robbing themselves (and their family) of.
The person who finally gets their act together because not doing so would lead to a life of misery and suffering if they don’t change.
The worker who finally starts to show up early because they were told they would be fired if they were late one more time.
The middle school kid who finally broke through his mental blocks and ran his fastest because not doing so could result in a serious dog attack.
If you’re having a difficult time motivating yourself and you’ve already tried thinking about all the positive stuff, try this out. Foreshadow failure and see what happens. You may surprise yourself.
**Caution: Use this with care. Please understand that there is a difference between foreshadowing failure and putting yourself into a toxic space. In no way am I advocating for you to compromise your physical or mental well-being for the sake of your goals.
Toxic: “If I don’t work out, then I’m always going to be fat and ugly and no one will love me.”
Foreshadowing failure: “If I don’t work out, I’ll gain weight, feel sluggish, and be disappointed in myself.”
Toxic: "If I don't get up to go to work, I'll lose my job, end up homeless, and my family will leave me."
Foreshadowing failure: "If I don't get up to go to work, my boss may fire me."