Think about a time when you faltered while working toward a financial goal.

We’ve all experienced it before.  You’re plugging away, feeling pretty good about the progress you are making, and then poof!  Instant relapse.  You are flooded by emotions, many of which drag you down and interfere with your ability to persist.

Think about what you say to yourself (your “self-talk”) at these times.  Do you beat yourself up mentally, thinking “I’m a failure; I’m a loser; I’m no good?”  Now think about the consequences of those thoughts.  If you beat yourself up, does that ultimately make you more persistent and task-focused or less?

Chances are good that the negative self-talk makes you less persistent and less enthusiastic about trying to get back on track.

We have a popular expression in our culture that if we make a mistake on a project, we are “back at square one.”  Prochaska, Norcross, and DiClemente, the researchers who developed the “stages of change” theory, offer a competing model for interpreting setbacks.  They suggest that change tends to happen in an upward spiral pattern.

Each time you circle through the stages of change, you end up one level higher on the spiral.  Although it may feel like you are back at square one, you are actually in a more elevated spot from which you can see things more clearly, and now you are equipped with wisdom, experience, and life lessons that you didn’t have when you were standing on the level below.

It may feel very natural and effortless to think to ourselves, “Great.  Now I’m back at square one.”  But we can work to make it just as automatic and effortless to remind ourselves at these moments: “Good failure, Self!  You can see a lot better from this level of the upward spiral!”

What is your favorite change metaphor?  Upward spiral?  A caterpillar turning into a butterfly?  A flower opening up?  Send your thoughts!