how to quickly stop myself from failing, when I have long associated failure with rewards
January 31, 2012 5:25 PM   Subscribe

Do you have any thoughts on how to quickly stop myself from failing, when I have long associated failure with a 'negative payoff' i.e. there have been rewards for failure in the past.

I have a pattern of failing at things and self sabotage. It partly comes from having rewards for failure in childhood i.e. comforting things, getting to be by myself, and is partly probably just me.

I can now see this happening as it happens.

I try and think myself out of it by looking at the consequences of failure and rewards of actually succeeding, but I can feel something inside pushing to failure that often seems stronger and smarter.

Obviously I want to stop this and don't want to sabotage my current situation.

Anyone be so kind as to offer thoughts on how to break this pattern?
posted by Not Supplied to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Visualizing the ramifications of your failures or successes. i.e. the entire scenario from, I don't get up to go to work in the morning so I lose my job and have no money or I get up in the morning and go to my job and imagining the paycheck, paying your bills on time, and the good feeling you associate with that.

Every time you catch yourself trying to do a thing you know is going to lead to failure or self-sabotage, list the consequences you know will come from it in very discrete terms. That might help. It helps me at least. If I'm thinking of drinking too much and staying up late, I imagine what I'll be like the next day in as much detail as I can muster. I "know" it's wrong no matter what, but unless I make it real to me, I might still tell future me to go fuck himself. Which is bad!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 5:42 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

It might help to talk with someone about why it is that you are so attracted to failure. You have identified some causes, but it might be helpful to talk with a therapist to get more toward a root cause.

I would recommend this approach before trying to figure out how to stop the behavior because if you do find out the real cause, you should be able to then address how to stop it.
posted by Leezie at 6:07 PM on January 31, 2012

You can control failure by making it happen. Success is less guaranteed and is subject to outside forces. Perhaps you can chastise yourself with the knowledge that failure is always possible, so what's the big hurry?
posted by rhizome at 7:31 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could impose an immediate self-punishment for failure - money is often a really strong motivator. So if you allow yourself to fail, you have to give $50 to someone you're not a big fan of. Or something along those lines, doesn't have to be money. You could have to give up internet for a week. That would terrify me...
posted by vegartanipla at 7:50 PM on January 31, 2012

I think you'll need to frame the problem in terms of a specific, tangible set of goals, intentions and habits. I recently read a couple of books about operant conditioning, animal training and the like. Some relevant points that have stuck with me:

1. It's a lot easier to train somebody to do something than it is to train them to not do something. Positive reinforcement is easy to apply and works really well. Negative reinforcement and punishment are far blunter tools that tend to miss their intended marks and also have problematic side-effects.

2. To be effective, reinforcements have to be experienced pretty much immediately when the desired behavior occurs. A reinforcement is not the same thing as a reward, e.g. getting to graduate after years of taking classes might be a reward but it's not a reinforcer and won't make you want to take more classes. You don't housetrain a puppy by praising it half an hour after it poops outside, you do it right away. You might think that human intelligence makes it feasible to reinforce current behavior by imagining future rewards, but generally we're not that smart.

3. If the "behavior" you want to encourage is something your pet rock can do, it's not really a behavior and you can't reinforce it. Your pet rock succeeds and fails at all sorts of stuff. These are not behaviors, and they can't be trained or reinforced.

It partly comes from having rewards for failure in childhood i.e. comforting things, getting to be by myself

It seems unlikely that childhood associations alone still have such a hold on you. Consider that you might still be enjoying rewards reinforcement of failure-causing behavior. What are those reinforcements? What is the food pellet you dispense for yourself when you do the things that trigger failure? Do you comfort yourself, as in childhood? Do you go and be alone in some comfortable and private spot? If you figure out what your favored psychological food pellets are then you can use them to reinforce behaviors that will lead to success, e.g. 'if I persevere at this scary task for half an hour then I get to go be by myself in happy solitude for 15 minutes.'
posted by jon1270 at 3:50 AM on February 1, 2012

« Older Which FLSA exemption do I choose?   |   Where to buy a Luxo Jr? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.