The path to success is rarely a rocket ship straight up. It normally involves ups and downs along the way. The “downs” are what I call “bumps in the road” and how we respond to to those bumps will determine our level of success. There are four basic ways to respond to bumps. The first one is denial. When we ask someone out on a date and get rejected or try out for a team and get cut or go for a job and don’t get it, there is a natural tendency to protect ourselves and say “I didn’t really like her anyways” or “I don’t care about that team” or “That job wasn’t for me.”
Whoa! Slow down. Yes, you did like her, that’s why you asked her out. You did want to make the team, that’s why you did the preseason practices and tried out. You did want the job, that’s why you researched the company and were excited about the interview.
It is actually OK that you went for it and did not get what you want. Does it hurt? Absolutely it does, but the pain will lessen with each passing day. Own the fact that you went for it, reflect on the results and move on. When we pretend that we did not care, we halt the grieving process and increase the chances that we will get stuck. Going for it and not succeeding is what successful people do everyday. Failing at something does not make you a failure, it just means that this particular event or chapter did not work out.
Own your decisions. Embrace the pain. Grieve. Heal. Grow. Move forward.
“I have this big decision coming up about ________________ . I cannot really decide because both options have plusses and minuses. I want to make sure I make the “right decision”. The problem is I am becoming so anxious, I do not want to make any decision.”
We live in an age of anxiety that is characterized by many being frozen by bouts of indecisiveness. We analyze our college choice, our job prospects, our potential spouse and where to go on vacation. We analyze, then we analyze a little more and then just to be sure, we do one final sweep of analysis. In the end, we drive ourselves nuts or worse procrastinate our way to a dead-end choice.
Here’s some advice: Just decide. In life, 99% of decisions will not ruin your life. Often there is not one right choice, there are several that are great. Ask yourself honestly, “What’s the worst thing that could happen from this decision?” Usually the answer is not that bad. So, gather the information you need, then be decisive and slow to change your mind. Your blood pressure and anxiety level will thank you.
Remember when you were in math class and the teacher talked about limits?
Oh, you don’t, never mind!
Actually limits in math act as a barrier that functions cannot go past. Functions can get close to the limit, but never past it.
For some of us, “limiting beliefs” in our lives are acting as a barrier to reaching our full potential. Limiting beliefs are typically not personal to us, rather more about groups we belong to. For instance, limiting beliefs can sound like this:
- People from my family cannot do that.
- Nobody with my ethnic/gender background can get that type of job.
- People my age cannot do those things anymore.
- People my height just cannot do that.
These beliefs are not about you personally, but they often dramatically impact the things we are willing to try in life. My limiting beliefs might stop me from applying for a job, asking someone out, trying a new hobby or going back to school.
I call limiting beliefs the “low bridging” of life. We cut off opportunities for ourselves even before we have had a chance to explore them. So, here’s the challenge, do not use your education, gender, ethnicity, age or some other characteristic to disqualify you from opportunities you are interested in. Explore, explore, explore and blast right past the limits!
I remember a couple years ago when I organized a conference for 700 educators, I was fretting over the opinion of one teacher. This teacher had some followers in the union, but ultimately was not very important. He was not my friend, not did I really value his opinion as an educator. So, why was I worried about pleasing him? Well, because I, like many others had fallen into a people pleasing trap. I put the value of pleasing others above everything else. Besides being unrealistic, silly and exhausting, people pleasing is a great idea.
When we fall into people pleasing, many of our great ideas never get launched because we are too scared of offending others or challenging them. Here’s a good questions to ask, “What weight does this person’s opinion REALLY have in my life? If the answer is “not much”, time to dust off your shoes, ignore the sheep and move forward.
When you are stuck in life, it is a serious bummer. Nothing seems easy. Doing laundry, finding a parking spot, filling out an application, working out or cleaning your apartment can all seem like monumental tasks. The tendency for many of us is to shutdown and avoid the problem entirely. Sometimes taking a nap or or playing a few hours of video games or binge-watching Netflix seems like a better solution than facing our problems. The outcome is usually temporary relief, coupled with an even greater sense of stress or pressure the next day.
In my coaching, I have seen that committing to even one activity a day can be powerful to move forward. If you are out of shape and have not exercised for awhile, commit to a 10 minute walk each day for a week and then add one minute in each of the next five weeks. You will be shocked at what a difference that can make. If you are stuck applying for jobs, set a 3o minute window each day where you apply for at least one job. At the end of the week, you will have five apps in.
Our brains and mindset react positively when we follow through on things we said we wanted to do. So do not try to do everything, just pick one thing and start moving forward.
Patrick Donohue is a life coach who specializes in helping young men ages 16-30 launch their lives and their careers.