Whatever goal you’re trying to reach or change you want to make, if you’re following someone else’s advice and it isn’t working, it probably isn’t your fault. I’ll explain why and what you can do about it.
Here are some of the main reasons why you can’t create the change you want:
- Your personality type
- Wrong information
- Science doesn’t have all the answers
Your Personality Type
There are so many personality type designations out there: Myers-Briggs, Kolbe, Four Tendencies, The Big Five personality traits…it goes on and on. Some people even consider psychology and psychiatry to be “junk science,” in which case any attempt to define your personality would be a waste of time.
The truth of the matter is that people rarely fit neatly into little boxes. So when I say personality type, I simply mean your personal tendencies and preferences based on your typical situations. Even so, we sometimes surprise ourselves by doing things out of character.
I think it’s important to know yourself: your core values, what you want from life, and why you want those things. But if using someone else’s script isn’t working for you, then it’s probably because it doesn’t work right for your personality.
Sometimes, you can’t make something work because you don’t have the correct information. A perfect example is weight loss. You want to lose weight, and you want it to be quick, because you’re tired of trying and failing. So you do a search, “how to lose weight fast.”
I just did that, and opened up one of the top links. There were so many potentially dangerous suggestions in there! First of all, the article I picked was written about 2.5 years ago. I clicked on the bio for the author, and he is no longer on the staff list. I don’t know why, but if you had questions he wouldn’t even be available to respond.
Second, there are some questionable tactics on that list--suggestions that would not work for people with heart conditions or other medical issues, like starting high-intensity exercise or using diuretics to lose water weight.
The author does also mention this is not a long-term fix, but someone might skip over reading that and then be disappointed when the weight comes back.
The point is, with all the information at our fingertips with access to the internet, it’s easy to find information. But that doesn’t mean it’s good information. If you assume someone is an expert and follow their advice, you might wonder what you did wrong when you’re unsuccessful. Even worse, you could end up hurting yourself or someone else by following bad advice.
Science Doesn’t Have All the Answers
We have advanced a lot in our knowledge, especially over the last century. But we still don’t know everything.
For example, for a long time science didn’t know how bees and other insects could fly. There was a long-held myth out there that flying insects “violated the laws of physics.” It wasn’t until recently that scientists filmed bees flying at 6000 frames per second and used robotic models of bees in flight to finally discover how their wings moved.
In a similar way, people have mystery illnesses that are misdiagnosed or treated incorrectly. Then one day, someone finds the cause for an illness, and hopefully a treatment or cure thereafter. Suddenly it’s no longer a mystery.
Sometimes, science is available but not used properly, or disregarded as being untrue. Two words: climate change.
What You Can Do
First, I’d like to say that this post is not about rendering you a blameless victim for everything that goes wrong in your life. This is about making a sincere, well-reasoned attempt to accomplish something and not succeeding. While I can’t possibly give you answers to every scenario, I’d like to try to offer some advice from someone who is constantly trying new things, not all of them succeeding.
It seems counter-intuitive, but I’m telling you not to take what anyone says (including me), try to follow it, and then blame yourself when it doesn’t work for your own goal (even if you’re trying to duplicate exactly what they did). There are just so many variables that two people could not possibly do something identically. Here are some guidelines you can try to troubleshoot issues you have.
If you’re trying something completely unfamiliar, the first time around, try it exactly as instructed by a reliable source. Once you’ve tried it that way, if it doesn’t work then go back and evaluate what went wrong.
- Were instructions too confusing or complicated?
- Did an action take you too far out of your comfort zone?
- Was it too much to do all at once?
- Were you distracted by other things while you were trying to perform the tasks?
- Looking back at what you were told to do, did you accidentally (or purposefully) skip or miss a step?
- Did it go beyond your capabilities, skills, or financial means?
It’s frustrating when you try something new and it doesn’t work the first time. But that isn’t necessarily a reason to give up completely. Here are some workarounds you can try.
- Combine advice from multiple sources in a way that feels right and give that a try.
- Consult an expert for help or include more people to assist you.
- Try again—maybe it’s just a matter of practice.
- Consider whether the desired outcomes and your expectations are realistic given what you are required to do. If not, adjust.
- Work harder at it.
- Pay someone with the right skills to complete some of the tasks.
- Skip steps that don’t make any sense (while also changing your expectations).
I recently watched a seminar about mobility problems. The speaker said that people with mobility issues often have to have backup plans just to get across the room, and make split-second decisions to reach their goals when they encounter obstacles. They develop these skills out of necessity, because their environments are constantly changing around them, and they’re required to continually come up with innovative ways to move through this world.
This is an example of how with enough determination, it's possible to learn resilience and troubleshooting skills. Like muscles, this knowledge will grow in strength and abundance the more you use it. So rather than seeing incomplete objectives as failures, see them as opportunities to grow. And instead of seeing yourself as a failure, envision yourself as a strong, flexible person who is learning new ways to move through this world.