As a kid, you always admired your athletic classmates: the gold medalists, the fit ones, the fast ones, them who ran alone. You have watched them win over and over, coveting their success and promising yourself you would one day step on that podium. As a grown up, you have timidly joined a gym, tried for a month or two and then you have given up. You have signed-up for 5k's, trained for a while and then you have pulled yourself out of the competition.
You lack the skill, the determination and the muscle. You are just not good enough, not disciplined enough, not there yet. But if you come to think of it, how many yets have saved you from social discomfort? How many excuses have you made to postpone your dreams and to say you will join in the next round?
Fear dictates your decisions based on instincts. If you want something very much and your gut tells you you will fail, fear is there to reinforce this point: it doesn't want you to get hurt so it makes you pass on the opportunity and it has you waiting for another one within a nebulous amount of time. Fear shelters your self-doubt and together they ask that you play it safe. They instruct you to under-reach and tailor your goals to dress a frail self image. So you sabotage yourself and you validate your doubts.
Putting together my Today I Failed At Facebook page aiming at helping people strategize their way out of downfalls and missteps and draw their way towards self fulfillment, I created a list of reactions to ineffectual attempts, so predictable that have ossified into stereotypes:
1) The "my story" reaction. Sometimes you think failing to reach your goals is a given. You could never be an athlete because your family members are immobile. You could never get into Harvard because you are a good student but just not that good. You could never ask your dream girl out because you were bullied as a boy and you lack the confidence. It is your story and you stick to it. You take advantage of it. Your story is your crutch in life: it is what builds your excuses to not try more, to not put yourself out there, to avoid confrontation.
2) The bubble wrap reaction. As Joe Manganielo puts it in Evolution, we tend to shield ourselves from failure and as a result, we "applaud potential instead of results" and cement "a mentality of good enough rather than better than ever." Thinking that we protect ourselves from disappointment, we bubble wrap our souls and bodies, abnegating all risks and everything that they have to offer.
3) The self sabotage reaction. Having other people, the "gatekeepers" as I like to call them, tell you what you can and can't do and more importantly deciding what you will and what you wont do makes you feel judged and exposed. It makes you feel attacked. But because you don't want others defining your life, you take initiative. So far so good. However, instead of choosing to defy the naysayers and go for it, you choose to trust their criticism and take charge of their sabotaging expedition by impeding your own way. And you are left feeling like a winner when in fact you have given in to a force driving you away from what you wanted.
4) The destructive pattern reaction. You keep reiterating that you want to be healthy. But day by day, you eat poorly, you smoke or drink and you stay inactive. You spend so much of your life repeating destructive patterns and the reason you do so, is because you keep waiting for a different outcome. Here is the thing though: it will not change. You change.
5) The rebellious reaction. Choice is a deeply misinterpreted term when it comes to will power. It is rather an abused term in this context. You start off by aiming at something very precise and specific. You know what you want. But then your eyes fall onto the impediments you will find along the way. The closer you get to the claiming line, the more people you hear telling you to turn around. Noise makes you lose sight of your aim. It becomes unclear and prone to redefinition. Noise urges you to react. You have a choice, it tells you, to run towards a different direction. So you rebel and never go after that original goal.
Don't rebel yourself into mediocrity.
To learn about my Today I Failed At project, click here
To contact me, email firstname.lastname@example.org