Trophies (Photo credit: Snap®)

I frequently see advice on just about any topic imaginable that goes something like this:

Try to work on x every day but don’t beat up yourself up about it if you don’t do it.

This sends me into a rage. “Work on x every day, you guys, but if you don’t actually do it, that’s OK too because everyone gets a trophy, even the losers!” “Try super duper hard unless the stinky old work is too hard, then just go ahead and be satisfied with having failed.”

That’s how that reads to me. 

I don’t want to get into the whole everyone gets a participation trophy thing that goes on with kid activities these days because I don’t have kids and I don’t want to go there. But I feel like this philosophy is the adult equivalent. “You should be proud of yourself for even thinking about trying to hit your goal!”

I’ve even seen this same argument made for general life improvement goals. “Don’t make New Year’s Resolutions because you’ll just be disappointed in yourself for not meeting them.” “Don’t try to diet because you’ll just get discouraged if you cheat one day.”

What the freaking heck is the point of setting goal and then NOT beating yourself up for missing it? Where is the consequence of missing the deadline then? Where is the punishment that makes you determined not to miss the goal next time if you’re supposed to give yourself a pat on the back even when you didn’t accomplish what you set out to do?

It should be a surprise to no one that I am very hard on myself. That same accept no excuses attitude I have towards slacker sellers and big companies like eBay is nothing to what I expect from myself. If I set a goal and I miss it, I *do* beat myself up over it. That’s the consequence of missing the deadline. I get mad at myself for failing and I adjust so that next time I’m working harder or the goal is more reachable because I don’t want to feel awful like that ever again. I’m not just shrugging saying “Oopsy! Missed that goal. Oh, well. I still deserve a cookie for trying!”

That’s why I get ish DONE.

Are there days when you deserve a break? Of course. But never beating up on yourself as an all purpose life-philosophy? I just can’t get behind that.

Frankly, I don’t see the value in coddling yourself. Do you want to accomplish your goals or not? If the answer is yes, then you need to motivate yourself and that involves setting real, tangible rewards and punishments for the milestones along the way. That feeling of beating yourself up, of being so furious at someone you don’t want to even be in the room with them but that person is YOU, that’s as important a lesson as you get in life. Shrugging it off because you don’t want to feel bad not only sets bad habits, it just sets you up to miss future goals because there are no consequences.

When you lost the big championship game and watched the other team hoist the trophy up high, it felt terrible, right? You worked hard and you lost. Ouch.

Are there people who saw that and got depressed and decided to never try at anything ever again because they might fail? Yes. But do you really think of yourself as that kid who pouted and quit because failure made him sad? In our hearts, we all like to think of ourselves as the kid who channeled that terrible feeling into even harder work until we were the ones with the trophy. But when you let failure slide by without calling yourself on it, you’re telling yourself that you’re OK with losing, with failing, and I don’t see how that’s ever helpful.

But maybe my tough love philosophy isn’t for everyone. What do you think?