I remember the first time I failed at something.
I had been wanting to get a job closer to home. So I bought a nice suit, found some wonderful references, got letters of recommendation, and polished up my resume'. I applied for over 50 positions and went to 5 interviews. I felt good about the interviews, and the panels all had great responses to my answers. I gave it my all and was optimistic about the possibility of eliminating my daily commute.
And then the e-mails started coming in. “Thank you for your interest, but we have selected another candidate.” For the next month, I received similar e-mails for all 50 positions. I had gone out on a limb, given it my best, and I had failed.
This exact experience is what holds so many of us back. We are terrified to try, because we might fail. Our efforts might not be successful. Many of us remain stuck in less-than-pleasant situations, because we might not make it if we try to do something different.
And yet here I was, experiencing that worst case scenario. What was the fallout? Well, I would still have to make my long commute, to the job I had worked in before. My situation was the same as it would have been if I had not tried to find a new job. That's all.
Is that such a bad outcome that it is worth being stuck and paralyzed over? Of course not. But that is not why we become to afraid of failure. It is not the actual outcome that we are afraid of. It is the meaning that our minds give the outcome.
If we have limiting beliefs and insecurities going into the situation, our minds will look for proof that those beliefs are true. And “failure” is the perfect place for our minds to find it! My failure would have been much more painful, if I would have believed that it meant that I was not qualified, or if I believed that it meant that I could never succeed.
Yes, there are reasons that I was not selected for the positions. I looked at my credentials and made plans to make myself more marketable. Without adding meaning about myself to the experience, I was able to learn from it.
And yet many of us are unable to learn from our mistakes. We beat up on ourselves, calling ourselves stupid, and fearing that something is wrong with us, that leads us to make the mistakes in the first place.
It is not the possibility of making mistakes that keeps us stuck in our situations. It is not failure or making mistakes that keeps us afraid. It is our own minds that we fear, and the meaning that our minds add to the experience.
So what is the antidote? Looking carefully at our minds, at our thoughts and the assumptions beneath them. Asking ourselves questions, when we notice that we are afraid. Asking why we are afraid of failure, and what do we think failing would mean about us. And when we find the assumptions, we can redefine them, so that we are able to learn from our mistakes, and not to fear making them.
There is a world filled with possibilities out there, and if we can learn to change our beliefs about ourselves, it will be all ours for the taking.
If you would like help identifying and redefining limiting beliefs, consider an individual e-mail, chat, or Skype session.
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