Bombed, choked, flopped, botched, lost. I bet these are all words we are familiar with and have probably used a time or two, or three, in our lives to describe something that we “failed” to do. I can also bet that during those moments, you also thought about it a million times in your head before actually failing, and it was NEVER as bad in real time as it was in your head.
So, why is it that we put failure on a pedestal in our minds over and over again knowing that it’s never that bad when it comes down to it? How do we stop this ‘f-word’ voice from coming back time and time again to ruin our positive energy and take away our mojo? I call this little conundrum the “Fear of Dreams.” If you think it, it will come. Can you imagine what life would be like if you never allowed the ‘f’ word to enter your mind? It would be glorious! Now, I’m not saying go out there and spend all your money on a cornfield, tear it down and build a baseball field where people will come to watch ghosts of players past play the game in all its spender (gratuitous movie reference). But, what I am saying is stop the negative-talk from invading your mind before it takes over and keeps you from working to make good things happen for you in your life.
Here are a few baby steps to get you going on the right track when the fear of dreams starts to take over:
Don’t avoid. Acknowledge.
I don’t know about you, but my internal ‘f-word’ voices come in many forms. From past coaches, terrible friends, ex-partners, you name it. The voices come and go to make me second-guess my abilities, skills and knowledge. There are a lot of ways to overcome these voices, but the worst thing to do is avoid them completely. Until they are acknowledged, they will keep coming back and getting louder.
You can’t live a positive life with a negative mind.
Okay, so you have acknowledged the negative voices. Now, thank them. It seems like a weird way to deal with negativity, but I didn’t believe it until I tried it either. The next time you start to get down on yourself or feel like you shouldn’t even try, say to yourself (or even to yourself in a mirror in the privacy of your own home) “Thank you, self, for acknowledging all the bad things that can happen, but I need you to take a back seat and let me get through this without your negativity right now.” It’s amazing how quickly those voices go away and rarely come back once you have pushed them out of your mind.
Don’t reach for the stars right away. Maybe start with a light switch first.
Sometimes the biggest problems we face have more to do with the weight we put on them from the beginning. Start small and build from there by creating a contingency plan. Having a plan can make the fear of failure take a backseat because you are prepared if plan A doesn’t work. Next time you start to feel like the world is crashing down and failure is imminent; get a plan together where you know success will follow.
Now let’s practice with a little case study. You walked out of your final and you have all of the sudden become psychic. You somehow KNOW you failed. You didn’t study, stayed up too late, and now you have to somehow explain to your family that you are going to have to drop out of school, become a homeless bum and shine shoes for money because you are a big fat failure. The voices flood your mind. Your father’s disappointing sigh, your friends who told you to study earlier because that professor’s exams are really hard, your roommate that said, “I told you so, now can you move your things out of the mini fridge so I have more room for my ginormous yogurt container and specialty coffee creamer.”
Don’t avoid. Acknowledge these voices and then thank them for their negativity, but you need them to kindly leave because you have work to do. Remind yourself that this isn’t the only class you are in right now, and one bad grade isn’t the end of all things. What was that contingency plan that you created before you set foot in that examination room? Oh ya, if you don’t pass this final exam you still have a C in the class. I know that isn’t the grade you were hoping for, but guess what, YOU DIDN’T FAIL. Walking slowly with your head down while crying sobs of failure have just been averted.
Congratulations, you are well on your way to getting better at this every day. Just remember, you have to practice putting the fear of failure in a hole in the ground instead of a pedestal where you have had it your whole life. It takes time, but I bet you get there and that’s when dreams really do come true.
Erin Morgenstern, CLDC Assistant Director of Leadership