I often have clients who speak of having a huge feeling of disappointment that they have not achieved what they wanted to in their life; of how they question whether they are indeed actually capable of securing that ideal job, meeting someone to settle down with, or even making that sports team. There can be a sense from them of ‘maybe this is not meant for me, maybe I am just not good enough’, almost as if success or happiness in life is not in their destiny.
My observation from working with clients and listening to what they say is that, when we feel that we are stuck and have failed to live the life we want, this often comes from having focused only on all the times that things have not worked out so far; all the rejection letters, the times of not getting past round one of the interview process, getting little or no interest to an online dating profile – or at least getting none of the right kind of interest, not making the starting team. The mind keeps all of these ‘failures’ in the foreground in plain sight, as reminders of all the times that we fall short or that life just didn’t work out. We then often base our belief on whether life can work out for us on that catalogue of mistakes.
But what the mind does not often do, is to play fair and be balanced. Because, if the mind were balanced, it would also regularly bring up reminders of when we have gotten letters inviting us for interview, or when we did get a few dates from that online profile, or when we came on five minutes into the game and played for the rest of the match. These occurrences are so much more common in our lives once we go looking for them, but somehow as memories they get relegated to the dusty old drawer in the back of the mind. But they are valuable tools that need to be used.
I often ask clients what life would be like if they did believe that it would work out - what would they say to themselves, and what would they do differently to when they feel disheartened and maybe even a bit depressed about the future. I get them to build a vivid picture of that, and the picture they paint is always along similar lines. The tell me that if they believed that life would work out for them, they would engage in the following types of mental and physical behaviours:
  • Talk to themselves in an encouraging way: “Come on, you can do this, just keep going, one foot in front of the other”.
  • Remind themselves of the small wins along the way: “Well, you didn’t get the job but you got shortlisted, so that shows that you have something of interest, keep working on it”.
  • Take action steps: “OK, so where can I get accurate feedback about that interview so that I can use it to tailor my approach?”
  • Find role models: “So who has been successful in achieving this before me, and what can I learn from them?”
  • Take chances: “I am not sure if this approach is exactly right, but I will be curious and see where it takes me”.
In other words, what clients tell me is that if they knew that they were not going to fail, they would adopt a whole new set of mental and physical behaviours, most of which are based around encouraging themselves and putting themselves out there.
But what if that is the key all along? What if the path to success in different areas of our lives is to be nice to ourselves, to encourage ourselves, to speak well to ourselves, to take action, to learn lessons from others, to be curious and take chances and try things? Rather than to beat ourselves up and assume that we can predict the future.
What if it is about realising that, actually, whatever age we are, we have survived this life up to now. We have overcome every tough day in our lives up until this point and we are still standing. So doesn’t that count for something? Doesn’t that suggest that we can actually do this? Because even before we reach those usual measures of success, we are doing great having handled all that life has thrown at us so far. It didn’t need to be pretty or easy for us to have handled tough situations – we got through them all and out the other side, no matter how it looked or felt. Doesn’t that deserve a pat on the back?
If telling yourself that life is not going to work out for you so far and if staying safe and avoiding trying things has not worked for you so far, why not try this approach instead? Acknowledge that you have gotten yourself through all the worst days in life and that in fact you are tougher, smarter and more resilient than you even knew. Then see how that realisation helps to give you the nudge to adopt some of the useful mental and physical behaviours outlined above and see where that takes you. I think that most of us will be surprised with the result.
Final Thought
“So far you have survived 100% of your worst days. You’re doing great” ~ (Unknown)."
Performance and Life Coach