THE ART OF THE FUCK UP
If there’s one guy who knows about fucking up.
It’s this guy.
If they offered ‘fucking up’ at university, I’d have a PhD by now.
See, fucking up gets a bad rep.
And that my friends is the issue.
In this day and age of ‘overnight successes’ and every other guy on instagram being some 10k/day CEO, fitness model, lion or tiger (or any other type of beast), it’s easy to see why we fear fucking up. We’re constantly bombarded with these engineered personas which only adds to us feeling like if we don’t nail everything 100% perfectly we’re failures.
It’s this mentality – the need for constant ‘perfection’ – that is screwing with you and your fitness goals.
And i’m about to teach you about the art of fucking up and how embracing it will not only make your life, but goal attainment easier.
Fucking up is an artform, you see.
Something we need to understand and master.
I’ve come to realise that, how you react to a fuck up is often far worse and more detrimental than the fuck up itself.
The key to all of this lies in feedback loops.
A feedback loop is like psychological mortar that your brain uses to build your reality. They can be either good or bad. They can either build you up, or break you down.
A feedback loop looks like this :
You take an action, you get a response from the action and this will dictate your future action. Imagine back to the first time you touched a hot stove (or any other deleterious life event) – the pain from burning your hand was the creation of a feedback loop that told you touching a hot stove was a bad idea; this in turn told you not to touch a hot stove in the future.
The response you got from the initial action [hand getting burnt] dictated your future action(s) [not touching a hot stove].
Feedback loops can either make or break you.
Allow me to illustrate :
You fuck up on your diet (action) => ‘I’m such a bad person, I always fuck up’ (response) => Your mind registers : ‘I’m a bad person, I ALWAYS fuck up => You’ve now created a [negative] feedback loop.
Your mind has associated the act[ion] of dieting to your inevitable fuck up.
So what happens?
Every time you are in a situation where you’re dieting and need to make a decision that will impact your success with this goal – like say, at a party, that has a buffet, and oh look, they’ve just brought out cake – the [negative] feedback loop you’ve created replays itself like a broken record : ‘I always fuck up’ ; and lo’ and behold what happens?
You fuck up.
But, the problem isn’t the fucking up. It’s how you respond to it that will dictate the outcome.
The Magnifying Glass Effect
This is what I call the ‘Magnifying Glass Effect’. We ‘zoom in’ on the fuck up and because we’re hyper-focussed on that one fuck up it becomes totally blown out of proportion making it seem much bigger than what it really is.
If we take a second to simply ‘zoom out’ and compare the fuck up to the rest of our life ; we’d see it isn’t THAT much of a big deal in the grand scheme of things.
The Magnifying Glass Effect (MGE) in action :
You overeat by 500 calories, the MGE kicks in and those 500 calories become totally overblown.
This leads to one of two things (sometimes both) :
1. The ‘AH FUCKIT’ Mode
You assume that those 500 calories you overate have blown your diet, so ‘AH, FUCKIT!’ ; you end up throwing it all to shit and end up overeating by 1000, 2000, 3000 (or more) calories – now you’ve really fucked up.
You begin panicking and start slashing calories and adding in cardio the following day, to make up for the supposed fuck up. And while you think you’re resolving the issue, in actuality, you’re making it worse and only strengthening the [negative] feedback loop.
So, what can you do ?
You need a disruptor.
It’s a cold, winter day as you walk to work, bleary eyed, you take a sip on your warm coffee as you ..
‘WHAT THE FUCK!’ you scream as you see a giant lizard appear from behind the towering skyscraper that is your office building.
The Godzilla-esque creature in this (clearly comical, and over exaggerated) hypothetical example worked as a disruptor. It ‘disrupted’ your normal sleep-deprived, walk to work ; bringing you to attention.
In the same way, to disrupt a [negative] feedback loop we need to disrupt its flow.
The disruption jolts you back to reality. It helps you zoom out and look at the situation in the grand scheme of things. It moves you away from being reactive to proactive. You go from panicking and making rash decisions to being able to think about things clearly, and with perspective.
From : ‘Fuck! I overate, my diet is ruined’
To : ‘Hey, it’s only one meal, no big deal’
You’ve realised that you fucked up, but instead of beating yourself up about it you can now work towards resolving the issue, calmly and not ‘in the heat of the moment’.
The feedback loop has been disrupted and you can work on creating a new, positive loop.
The new loop starts by taking a new action that puts you back on track towards your goal.
Here’s a few things to consider :
Realise You Fucked up
We’re all Human, we all fuck up. This whole process begins by firstly realising and acknowledging that you made a mistake. Until you don’t acknowledge your fuck up, you’ll be trapped in your old feedback loop, doomed to continue making the same mistakes.
Tip : Two things that I have begun doing that have helped me a ton with this –
– Meditation : Has allowed me to be more mindful of why I’m doing certain things. Taking me out of ‘the heat of the moment’ or ‘the magnifying glass effect’, and bringing me back to the present.
– Journaling : Thinking back to the event, and writing down what happened allows me to look back at the fuck up objectively and then working out how I can prevent the same fuck up happening in the future (see point 3).
2. Control What You Can & Stop Dwelling
Whatever the fuck up was, it’s done. You can’t control what’s happened but you can control what will happen in the next moment, tomorrow, next week. Focus on that and stop dwelling on the ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’. The more you dwell on the fuck up, the more pronounced the magnifying glass effect becomes and the harder it becomes to ‘zoom out’.
3. What Can You Do Differently?
This is the key to breaking out of the loop and the MGE. Moving from reactive to proactive.
If you overate or messed up on your diet : What can you do going forward to help you stay on track with your diet?
Is there a certain trigger food that causes you to overeat? – Remove this item from your home
Was it a lack of planning? – Prepare your meals for the week in advance
Thinking about what caused the problem to occur in the first place brings awareness to the root cause. Once you’ve identified the root cause, you can make the necessary changes to eliminate anything that could throw you off plan.
4. Prevention is better than cure
This leads on from the previous point. A lack of planning is one of the biggest reasons we begin building these negative feedback loops or habits.
If you know a certain food causes you to overeat, remove it from your house and don’t buy it.
If you find you slip up on your diet after a long day at work, don’t rely on your willpower , make sure you have a pre-made diet meal ready and waiting for you in the fridge so you can simply eat without overthinking.
This is one of the main reasons many people hire a coach. As people, we are terrible at holding ourselves accountable. Knowing that you have to report back to someone will help keep you on track. Now, if you don’t want to hire a coach, you can assign a friend or family member to hold you accountable. This works just as well.
I totally get that in our fast paced, perfectionist culture why fucking up has gotten such a bad rap.
But, the irony is that the more you try not to fuck up, the more you will fuck up.
Missed one workout ? Does it really matter amongst the hundreds, if not thousands of workouts you will have in your life.
Overate one day ? Are those few hundred calories really going to stop you losing fat in the context of your whole diet?
Putting things into perspective like this really helps you move forward and not dwell on one isolated incident. No one got fat because they overate by a few hundred calories in a single day, and no one shrivelled away to nothing because they didn’t go to the gym for one or two days.
Start embracing and mastering the art of the fuck up.
You’ll be better off for it.