I remember teaching my younger son to ride his bike without training wheels. When it wasn’t as easy as he had anticipated, he threw the bike down, stomped his feet, and yelled that he would NEVER be able to do it. With a bit of convincing, he tried again, and to his surprise, he rode his bike all by himself for a little way.
My son got off the bike with a massive grin, we high-fived, and then he looked at me and said “OK, let’s put the training wheels back on now.”
Working hard to achieve a long-cherished goal, achieving it, and then ceasing all effort is like baking a beautiful, luscious cake, breathing in the wonderful freshly baked scent, and then throwing it straight into the bin without enjoying a slice (or letting anyone else enjoy it.)
And yet we push ourselves to achieve health goals, career goals, or relationships goals, only to relax back into old ways once the goal’s achieved.
Here are 3 ways to avoid the all too common phenomenon of Success Then Regress:
Enlist the support of someone who can dish out the tough love
All change feels uncomfortable until it becomes “you.” Start going to the gym and you’ll probably feel awkward and want to quit, until suddenly you become “one of those people who loves going to the gym.” Until you take on that new identity, find someone who has your back, which means they’re behind you, so that you can’t retreat.
Find a friend, colleague or mentor who is willing to be an accountability buddy for you while you’re getting accustomed to the new way of doing things. It’s got to be someone who won’t accept your excuses and “reasons” for putting the training wheels back on.
Set the next level of your goal before you achieve the goal
My son wanted to ride his bike without training wheels. Once he’d done that, the goal was achieved. Had he set another, bigger goal that involved using the skills of riding his bike without training wheels, then he mightn’t have asked to have the training wheels back.
When you’re near to reaching your goal, you’ll probably have learned enough that you can set an even bigger goal, beyond what you had initially conceived. So stretch the goal even further to keep you moving forward instead of backward.
Teach what you’ve learned to someone else
When you can teach what you’ve learned to someone else, you’ve achieved a level of clarity that makes it unlikely you will slip back into old ways. Having to explain something forces us to really let the learnings sink in. If you don’t have someone to teach directly, write down how you did it, blog about it, explain it to someone who will listen. Every time you explain it, it becomes more real to you and you solidify it into your identity.
In addition, the added motivation of contributing to someone else’s success by being a role model for them forces you to raise your standards. Because for most of us, we don’t worry about letting ourselves down, but letting someone else down is practically a criminal offense.
Throw the training wheels away
This bonus way to avoid Success Then Regress is only for the truly committed: burn your bridges on the old way. Make it impossible to fall back on the comfortable, the easy, the familiar. Training wheels on the shelf are always a temptation.
Get rid of them once and for all and ride off into the sunset of your success.