A lot of people and places will tell you that to be successful, you have to experience a major downfall or failure. And then they’ll provide you with a list of famous success stories from people who were fired and rose to lead an “empire” (Oprah); who dropped out of school and still became a successful entrepreneur (Bill Gates)…. hell, here’s a list of 50 famous individuals you can review yourself.
Success isn’t always about fame, fortune, popularity, or careers.
If you want examples on a smaller scale, lets broaden our definition of failure to include personal health and happiness, and lets say that when you leave your doctor’s office one day carrying the bad news that you have to go on some medication you were hoping to avoid because your parents and their parents were on it. You also carry the weight of knowledge that if you don’t change things, this medicine, and your life style, are going to be exactly what brings you to the same place your predecessors got to: Heart failure. Or Kidney failure. Whatever. There’s a medical things you were always so certain you could avoid, and then life happened and your personal well-being got away from you. Here you stand, feeling like you failed.
Now you’re at the pivotal point in the equation. The thing that all those “They were failures once, but now they’re billionaires!” articles tout: The moment when successful people pick themselves up and take action.
Action is the key word.
All those articles, and stories, and memoirs, and so forth will tell you that the biggest difference between the successful people and the people who fail and stagnate out is one thing: Action. Successful people start to take action.
There may be more behind the “why” for the people who “fail” in their health, but don’t get motivated to act on it beyond, well, taking the pills. Depression:
Real quick, an aside about the obesity/depression correlation:
A lot of studies have shown that obesity and depression are typically connected. What they don’t know for certain is which comes first (obesityaction.org). Research stands by the fact that people who suffer obesity are 20-44% (depending on genetics, race, gender, or mental health in the family to begin with) more likely to suffer depression. A lot of this situation is personal opinion and social cognition-driven (Stereotypes, bullying, media messages, etc). People feel bad about themselves when they don’t meet the “social standard” of beauty or health.
Does depression drive people to become obese though? I don’t know. The research all shows that it is very much a given that the two are connected. There’s no doubt that being overweight will largely increase depression. And depression can cause weight issues (gain or loss). It was reported in 2009, by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, that depressed people tend to gain weight faster than people who aren’t depressed. “The bulk of those extra pounds was concentrated around their waists. That’s not good. Belly fat is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.”
I have my personal theory….as it relates to health and depression and weight… and it has to do with the thyroid. A lot of my family suffers from thyroid-related diseases. I know a large number of friends who also suffer from the same. A malfunctioning thyroid can cause extremes in weight (Depending on the direction of malfunction) and can mimic mental health issues like depression and anxiety (Thyroid Foundation). Without medical intervention, weight won’t be controlled and mental status won’t be controlled.
But for people who just happen to like pizza, sodas, beer, and other “not quite healthy” foods a little more than they should on a daily basis… People like me, basically…. There’s good news! You can get off certain medicines and loose weight. It’s not easy. You’ll have set-backs. But it’s doable. You can find success.
And this brings us back to the fail-to-succeed stories.
The running and crossfit and triathlon communities, to name a few, are inundated with stories from hundreds of people all over the place who can say that they lost well into the triple digits of weight. There are people who suffered a serious injury, and came back from that to win races and travel the world.
From the lady who lost 10lbs last week, to the guy who lost 210 lbs overall and now competes in endurance races on every continent, these people will tell you they feel successful.
Knock yourselves out on that for a while if you want.
The bottom line? They got told, or realized, something that they didn’t like about their situation (failure) and they made the decision to act and then acted upon it. They struggled. And they pushed through. Its true in business, its true in relationships, and it can be true for you in health and wellness.
Success, if you research it, is always talked about in the working life…careers, business, innovation, science… they don’t really apply it to things like improving your personal relationships or getting healthier. But the ideas and resoning behind the fail-to-succeed can be applied, like I said, across the board.
While I’m writing this I’m tripping out on this question of, “do we really need failure in order to succeed? Can’t we just, I don’t know, try a thing and win at it for the rest of our lives?” Not to be basic, but we all know that failure is unavoidable in life. Sometimes we feel like we fail more often than succeed. But do you need to hit rock bottom before you make the change in life that? Apparently, you’re experiencing the failures all the time… its just in the moment that you recognize it and get tired of it, and change it, is when you start making successes.
Tim Harford (An Economist) explains that its a matter of : “success comes through rapidly fixing our mistakes rather than getting things right first time.”
My husband says it’s a matter of: “there are more ways to fail than to succeed, so if you try something you’re likely to fail, statistically. If you try enough times, the chances you’ll succeed go up.”
(Actually, the interview with Harford is really good. Read it here.)
Do you even think of success as it pertains to your personal health? Maybe its time you do. Maybe it’s time we all do.
Are you waiting for failure to strike? Like, a massive one?
Have you determined what it would take to get you moving now, before you have to hear the dreaded health news?
Maybe you should.
As always, thanks for reading!