There are two things I'm sure everybody reading this has experienced at some point:

Failure & Guilt.

Everybody has tried...

Everybody has failed...

And everbody has felt guilty about letting friends, family, or themselves down.

But does feeling guilty really motivate you to "get back on track?"

To find out, psychologists Claire Adams and Mark Leary invited young women who were watching their weight into the laboratory and encouraged them to eat doughnuts and candy (for of science, of course). 1

Although the experiment seemed cruel, it led to a profound insight to the question:

Will people indulge in less junk food if they forgive themselves?

Most people, including me, will find that question absurd.

If people don’t feel guilty, then what is stopping them from eating ALL of the doughnuts and candy?

How will they hold themselves back if they don’t feel bad about giving up on their diets?


To find the answer, the researchers separated the dieters into two groups — a self-deprecating group, and a self-compassionate group.

They told each group that they were going to take part in a study of food on a person's mood and a taste study of several candies.

In the mood study, each woman was asked to choose between a chocolate or glazed doughnut and finish it within 4 minutes. Then they washed it down with a full glass of water.

The combination of the doughnut and the water made each woman feel both guilty and uncomfortably full at the same time.

Before the second study, the self-compassionate group received a message to help relieve their guilt.

The note read:

"Sometimes participants feel guilty about eating a whole doughnut, but you shouldn't be too hard on yourself about it. Remember that everyone indulges sometimes."

The “feel guilty” group didn’t receive any message — leaving them to embrace their guilty thoughts and feelings.

Then the researchers gave both groups three large bowls of candy:

  • Reese’s
  • Skittles
  • Peppermint Patties

And asked each woman to sample some candy from each bowl and rate it. They were encouraged to eat as many candies as they’d like to achieve a “definite rating."


After each group of women had eaten the candy, the researchers weighed the bowls to measure the difference.

Here are their averages:

Self-compassion group — ate 28 grams of candy

Self-guilt group —- ate 70 grams of candy

Feeling guilty led to almost 3x more binging! Since then, researchers have repeated similar experiments to test our guilty reactions and come up with shockingly consistent results.

Feeling guilty always leads to letting loose.


Now, you may be thinking:

"Okay, maybe this works for others, but I know that I need to feel guilty! Otherwise, I won't learn my lesson!"

That's certainly a fair concern, so let's take a look at what happened in the brains of the two groups of participants.

When each group broke their diets by eating the doughnut, then made it worse by feeling bloated from the water, they activated an area I call "The Primitive Brain."

The Primitive Brain is all about the short-term. It is where cravings for food, sex, and even shopping sprees get their motivation.

By feeling guilty, the dieters were unknowingly fueling it. [2]

However, when the other group received a supportive and rational message that everyone indulges sometimes they could see their situation with greater clarity. It wasn't the end of the world.

Their mental activity stimulated the rational, "Modern Brain" — which is responsible for self-control and discipline.

By seeing a guilty situation objectively and forgiving yourself, the situation remains under your control. [2]


Many of us have become so used to feeling guilty when we slip that thinking about an alternative seems strange.

So I laid out three scientifically proven strategies that you can use to rebound from a setback and stick with your goals:


Imagine your best friend just had a bad day and skipped their diet or exercise routine.

What advice would you give them?

Would you try to make them feel guilty about what they ate?

Would you call them lazy and hopeless for skipping the gym?

Of course not. You know intively that making them feel worse won't help. Right now, they need your support to stick with it for the long-term.

Are you any different? What would your best friend tell you?

When we think about helping our best friends, we gain perspective on the reality of our situation. This is why we give our best friends better advice than we give ourselves.

We let go of the short-term emotions, which helps us think clearly. 3

The next time you start to feel guilty about a setback, pause.

Think about what you would tell your best friend if they were in your situation. The advice you give him or her may be the difference between a slip, and crash.


The first long-term goal every one of us sets in life is far from easy...

Learning how to walk.

From the moment we saw the grownups walking upright, it inspired us.

For months we tried and failed. We fell again and again, but did our parents make us feel guilty about it?

NO! (At least I hope not :/)

Babies somehow understand that falling is part of the process. It is a necessary setback that every person deals with when learning how to walk. When we fell, we got back up.

Eventually, we started walking on our own — taking each step with pride.

Unfortunately, many of us forget this crucial life lesson and start worrying about being judged as a "failure." So we don't even try.

Any goal worth achieving is going to push you out of your comfort zone. And just like learning how to walk, you will fall. Sometimes it will be your mistake, somtimes it will be bad luck.

You can't always will yourself to success — but you can will youself to get up.

Wounds heal for a reason. When they do, it's time to try again — not wallow in guilt.


I've honestly lost track of how many failures I've incurred over the last six years as an entrepreneur...

But there's no question having to move back in with my parents was the hardest.

I had worked so hard for so long, and it felt like a big step backward. It was a shining example of my failure as an entrepreneur.

That was my "fall down" perspective.

However, through another perspective, moving back home was a sign of my refusal to quit, my willingness to suffer through the embarrassment, and do whatever it takes to save my dream.

That was my "get up" perspective.

Both perspectives were important. It would do me no good to deny the reality of my situation, try to defend my lifestyle to the outside world, and get comfortable living there.

Equally, it would do me no good to feel sorry for myself, feel guilty about failing, and accept that I was just a loser.

Eventually, I struck the right balance between the drive to get out of there ASAP, and the confidence I needed to make it happen. [4]

Additionally, seeing myself through both lenses helped me overcome my insecurity. We don't like to think about, talk about, or even admit the truth about our insecurities.

Insecurities reveal our weaknesses, failures, and fears.

This leads to a horrible downward spiral as we try to coverup our negative traits, and talk only about our successes. This makes us feel even more guilty about failure when we inevitably hit bumps along the road.

Everyone falls. Everyone hurts. Not everyone gets back up. Those that do, learn that falling down isn't the opposite of success — it's a part of success.


I realize this is all easier said than done.

Our brains are always wary of how others may judge our success and failures. That judgment was once the difference between the safety and security of the tribe, and facing the wild alone.

Thus, we all have an internal judge who makes us feel guilty whenever we don't live up to its standards of perfection.

Defeating this internal judge is no easy task. I doubt anyone ever silences it completely. But understand that you are not imprisoned by your guilt. You have a choice.

You can choose to think about what you would tell your best friend. You can choose to learn and grow from your failures, and you can choose to keep everything in the proper perspective.

When you fall, you can choose to get up.