Failure is success, and other lessons from a Competitive Edge coach

Story by Kyle Kercher | Photography by Greg Lindstrom

People walk into my office daily looking for help and support to achieve their goals. Any given day could bring teenagers, all ages of business professionals and even retired seniors looking for everything from dropping 20 pounds to learning how to strength train to mental skills development, accountability and motivation. They could have been born anywhere from the 1940s or 1950s to the 2000s. To be honest, most people don’t literally walk into my office — last week the requests came in the form of Post-It notes, emails, voicemails, text messages and spur-of-the-moment office drop-ins. What’s clear is that everybody, regardless of age, can use a little help to achieve their dreams.

Behavior change is a challenge for all of us. At one point or another we’ve all tried to start a challenging behavior or skill and failed. You may have tried to improve your eating habits, learn a new instrument or language, get more sleep, start a new workout program, or simply create more “me” time. You may have tried to get to the Olympics or, on the flip side, simply get off the couch. Sometimes the behavior may have been something you’ve been trying to stop, rather than start. The same principles apply to each — it’s all about understanding behavior change. Starting something positive and stopping something negative share a common characteristic — it starts with you and what you want. The more we pursue behaviors that are genuinely in line with our own desires, the more often we will be successful. We’ll passionately pursue those endeavors even when we’re feeling less than ideal.

A good place to start is asking yourself the question, “Do I want to, need to or feel like I should start/stop the new behavior?” If you feel like you need to or should, then you’re likely going to have to force the behavioral change, which sets you up for failure when your willpower inevitably flutters. These need or should behaviors are externally driven by something or someone other than ourselves and are significantly less likely to change compared to a behavior that you want to change. If you genuinely want to start taking control of your health, life or future goals, then your odds of making that happen are exponentially increased. We’re so often encouraged by physicians, significant others or social pressures to eat better, work out harder or make more money that we neglect looking in the mirror and asking ourselves what we truly want.

There’s something called the transtheoretical model of behavior change, which has five stages. What’s important to know is that each specific stage of change gives us a good idea of whether or not it’s wise for people to begin pursuing a new behavior. If they’re still just contemplating whether they want to start a new behavior, then it’s not a good idea to start taking challenging action on it. This is what goes wrong with so many New Year’s resolutions. People wake up Jan. 1 — okay, maybe Jan. 2 — full of enthusiasm to kick off a new year right, but the problem is that they’re not yet ready to start the new weekly exercise program, meal plan or nightly reading goal. If you’re not ready, don’t force it.

However, there is an important caveat to employing the right mindset for behavioral change: failure is success.

Although we don’t want to jump into all sorts of new goals before we’re ready, we must also balance that with the idea that we don’t want to be stagnated by the idea of failing. When we fail at reaching one of our goals, we can learn from it, revise our future strategies and confidently look in the mirror knowing we had the courage to try. A simple example of the value in a growth mindset.

Takeaways for Changing a Behavior

  • Is it something you want, need or should do?
  • If you’re not ready, don’t force it.
  • Failure is success.

Kyle is a husband, entrepreneur and coach in Kalispell. He owns Athletic Edge Sports Consulting and leads Competitive Edge at The Summit Medical Fitness Center. Kyle is fascinated by motivation and driven by helping people to achieve their potential, which led him to earn a master’s degree in Exercise Science and Sport Psychology. Subscribe to his free blog on performance, mindset and mental toughness at Contact him at