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.” (thefreedictionary.com)
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?