Stop Empowering Your Lapses

The lapse is perhaps the greatest cause of failure. It isn’t the lapse itself that ruins plans, but it is the power that we give it. An empowered lapse can become a dreadful long-term or permanent lapse.

Lapse (n) – “To fall from a previous level or standard, as of accomplishment, quality, or conduct.” (


You’ve been there before – you’re going with a strict diet and mess up one day. Then you mess up the next day. By now, your lapse is growing and gaining significant leverage in your mind.

“I guess this diet was a failure.”

“It doesn’t look like I’m going to be able to follow this plan.”

“For the last two days, I was off the diet, so the trend shows…”

“I will eat this ice cream since I ate some yesterday and I haven’t been following the diet.”

This is something I’m struggling with right now. I started a giant project about 2 months ago. Last month I was sick, and restarting it has been a major mental struggle. I feel “removed” from the project.

The sickness also killed my momentum in strength-building and fitness. I had a decent excuse for that month, but where is my excuse now? I don’t see one.

This is nothing new for me, unfortunately. Small bumps in the road have stymied more of my plans than I’m comfortable to admit. But now I understand why this happens and I believe a change is in order for me (and you!).

We only fail because we empower the lapse. We give it significance.

Acknowledge The Lapse And Continue Onward

In a previous article, I talked about how it is important to view the present moment as neutral. It strongly ties in to this, as lapses are negative events that are in the past. A lapse is never in the present moment unless you are actively choosing to lapse right now.

This is important because the only way to correct a lapse is to continue on your desired path. When the present moment is neutral and you have a positive opportunity in front of you, it’s an easy decision. But when a lapse has a stronghold in your mind, you’re focused on the failure of the recent past – of which you can do nothing about.

I could easily restart this project in the next 5 minutes.

Just five minutes and I’d win.

This Decision can be made in seconds!

It’s the same with everything else. If you were on a diet, immediately decide to get back on track. If you’ve lapsed on your exercise program, go to the gym right now or make concrete plans to go later.

That’s it. The lapse is finished!

What the lapse does is so sneaky – it undermines our thoughts. Instead of looking at my project with excitement, I started to make excuses not to do it now or anytime. These were the types of excuses that I would be embarrassed to say out loud because they weren’t valid.

I made excuses because I feared the lapse.

Do Not Fear Lapses

Lapses will happen. We are not machines of pinpoint precision at all times. Sometimes a physical injury or sickness will force a lapse upon us. Life happens.

When we fear something, it automatically has power over us. Since we want to be able to overpower lapses easily, fear is not an option. Fear of a lapse in your commitment is also not a good source of motivation to do something positive – passion and desire are the best sources of motivation.

To not fear a lapse means to accept it casually.

“Ok, I had a lapse because of reason X. That’s fine – I’ll fix it immediately.”

That’s better than, “Oh no, I’m losing! I may never be able to do this. I can’t believe I let myself slip up again.” That person is still stuck in their lapse because they are giving it a great deal of significance!

A Note To Perfectionists

I know this is difficult for you as I have some perfectionist tendencies. At times I don’t want to do something if I can’t do it perfectly. This is another fear that leads to very extended and sometimes permanent lapses.

Perfectionists need to ask themselves if they’d rather do something 95% well or not do it at all. We’re never going to get anything perfect. Isn’t that refreshing when you think of it in terms of lapses? It means that lapses are normal and expected.

Once we get accustomed to the bumps on the road to success in every endeavor, we’ll begin to enjoy the challenge of persevering through them when they inevitably come. This is one thing that separates Steve Jobs from the rest of the world. He was fired from Apple. Through perseverance, he was able to rejoin Apple to make it the most valuable company in the world.

Think about that lapse. CEO to unemployed. Then after ushering two more companies to greatness, Steve was back as CEO of Apple. It makes your lapse at the gym seem trivial in comparison, doesn’t it?

The good news is that all lapses are trivial and surmountable with the correct mindset. Lapses happen – just don’t make them a big deal, or else they will be. Move forward.

This very moment is up for grabs. What are you going to do with it?

About the Author

I'm lazy, but you can call me Stephen. When you're as lazy as I am, you need superior strategies to live well. My strategies are so effective that I'm productive every single day. As the world tries to figure out how to always stay motivated, I create strategies that don't require it.

Is It Down

Everyone falls off the wagon from time to time – the trick is not to let the fall dictate whether or not you can get back on. Instead of making excuses like “but the wagon is still moving” or “but I let it get too far away from me,” we just have to get a running start, get moving, and get back on that wagon before it really *does* get too far away to fix things.



Always a pleasure to read your posts, Stephen.

Indeed, as Laurie said, everyone falls off the wagon. But there’s also this part when you allow yourself that piece of cake, once a week or something, so you won’t fall into a longer lapse. It’s like budgeting or time management–you can’t go on indefinitely without rewarding yourself or letting yourself go a little. When you need to act is when your lapse has taken over the rest of your life and affects your routine and your productivity.

Perfectionism isn’t really a quality unless you keep it under control. Otherwise it stops you all the time… as an ex-academic, I know how perfectionism can slow down your production rate so much that you end up writing nothing.

Fighting lapses is also the art of letting go and letting yourself start over.

Hugo Martins

Hey Stephen, I haven’t been here for a while now.

I think we can apply this article to bloggers as well, we as bloggers have to be capable to overcome lapses and aware that lapses will happen, more often than not.

When you see your stats getting down, or an article that didn’t go quite well. We have to held our heads high and keep struggling.

As for the personal life side of it, it’s true that lapses can ruin our life but the one’s that resist the lapses and know how to handle them and how to turn them into something (Iwouldn’t say better but) different. Lapses are good – are a good moment of reflection and introspection. Are interesting to find out what might be wrong in something. As you said, we sould empower them.

As a side note, I am still waiting for your side project. Get to work. No excuses.

Keep breathing!

Stephen Guise

Or…we could try out a different wagon! 😀

Actually, this is what I often do. I’ll “start over”…even though it might not be any different than continuing. With exercise, I used to get motivated and come up with a plan, then I’d fall off the wagon. A little later I’d do it over again. Eventually, I became consistent and working out is now a part of my lifestyle!

The wagon analogy depends on what it is we’re talking about. When it comes to weight loss, the wagon can definitely “get away from you.” When you stop pursuing a creative project, the wagon usually just sits and waits for you to get back in!

Good thoughts Laurie.

Stephen Guise

I appreciate the support Anabelle.

You’re right too. Because we’re sensitive creatures and not machines, we need those breaks sometimes. It’s definitely preferred to allow yourself to break a rule than to break a rule out of frustration – they have completely different effects on the mind.

Yeah, perfectionism is difficult to live with (depending on severity). Like I say in a post I’m working on, we need to let good be good enough!

Letting go! I’ve been thinking a lot about letting go lately – an invaluable skill that is difficult to practice.

Stephen Guise

Hey Hugo,

Thanks for stopping by! Yes, this definitely relates to bloggers. I had a blogging lapse. I noticed that blogging seems to have high and low “tides”…they are less predictable than I figured they’d be. It’s good to keep this in mind when traffic and interaction are sparse. It also helps if you love to write. 🙂

I said that we should NOT empower lapses – because that’s what makes them long term lapses. Brief lapses are good for reflection like you say, but longer term lapses are just unproductive.

Oh the side project. You nailed me. I’m still in a lapse there. I have no excuses left. I’m using my circumstances (about to move to TX for three months) as an excuse, but I still have spare time to spend on the project. Even when I get going on it – it’s going to be a while (At least a year – it’s a BIG project with so much to consider…it’s a much bigger idea, and more exciting, than anything I’ve ever attempted). So don’t wait too anxiously for it. 😀

Thanks for the cold water in the face, Hugo. 😛

Chris Jones@soundspott

Thanks for sharing this awesome post. For a week I was also in a lapse as you said. For some reason, I couldn’t write posts on my blog and my entire days were dull. But today I decide to that ‘whatever it had happen, I’m not ready to give up’. That makes me feel good. I understand that every lapse longs until a decision.

Hugo Martins

Ahh sorry, I got confused. I meant empower as with turning lapses into good things, not making them big.

Still, I’ll be waiting.

Stephen Guise

I gotcha. Haha, ok…I’ll let you know!

EDIT: Also, I restarted the project today. I only worked a little bit on it, but the ball is moving again! I think I just need to take some of the pressure off and simply do my best (sounds like another post idea).

Stephen Guise

Hey Chris, it’s my pleasure! I respect your positive outlook and that you’re not giving up. I restarted my project today, so I’m doing better now too!

Chris Jones@soundspott

If you don’t mind, what project? your readers are waiting to listen

Stephen Guise

The project isn’t actually related to the blog. It is a business idea (that I’m keeping a secret). I will definitely let everyone know at some point.


I scheduled my lapse yesterday. I gave it permission to stay low, but I gave it a deadline of 2 weeks. After that, it’s not allowed. =)

Stephen Guise

Haha, I like that you schedule your lapses and give them a deadline. That’s awesome. 😀 Just make sure you stick to it!

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