Learning

The Fear of Failure

You can call it failure; I call it life.

Ant Middleton

It has been a while since I have written a post, so I must admit it is a little intimidating coming back to it again!

A lot has changed, the world is looking a lot brighter.

www.instagram.com/theartofbeinghappy_art/

When I wrote my first blog post I was very motivated after a long period of feeling low and enjoyed the experience, but the more I wrote the more I began to feel like it was a chore to do it. That is not what I wanted from my hobby, so I decided to have short break and explore some other hobbies.

Now, I have always been terrified when it comes to investing money into things, especially when I don’t know a lot about them. My husband and I ordered a hot tub (one of those blow up ones that probably looks a little more expensive than it really is). I remember looking in my garden and seeing so much potential for what I could do to make the hot tub area a nice area to be in. However, as soon as I thought about the possibility of putting in decking myself and designing an area in the garden, I felt terrified and immediately put that crazy idea to bed. I had never done it before so it would be a little risky to give it a go and potentially waste time and money.

Or would it?

I began thinking, contemplating over the idea of who I want to be. I considered the idea that a characteristic of the person I wanted to be was fearless, well somewhat anyway. I had just finished a book by Ant Middleton called The Fear Bubble (I highly recommend it). It talks about how so many people live their life in their own safe corridors. Opportunities come up to open new doors and see what is out there but ultimately most choose to retreat to the comfort of familiarity and certainty, their corridor. It is something I’ve been doing for the last few years.

Learn a new skill? I could but if I am not good at it, I’ll feel demotivated. Go for a job I’m really interested in? Maybe, but if I don’t get it then that’s it, I’m doomed to be a failure. Sounds crazy when you hear someone else’s thought process right? Of course as an outsider you’re able to see things in perspective.

“Just because you don’t get that job doesn’t mean you’re a failure!”

“Practise makes perfect, if you’re committed enough you will get better”

In all honesty, the reason I chose to commit to renovating my garden was because I was fed up. I was fed up of saying “I wish I could craft things”. I have too many wishes I’ve sat on for a while.

“I wish I could lose this weight that’s making me unhappy”

“I wish I could draw better”

“I wish I could write a successful blog”

No, I wasn’t having it anymore. Fail or not, I was going to build some decking and plant boxes for my hot tub area. I jumped in the car and went to Homebase to scope out how much it would cost me. Cost was something I had to consider but I had decided it wasn’t going to be a reason I didn’t go through with improving my garden. If it was too expensive to buy decking, then I’d buy used wood and sand it down and put decking together with that. Ultimately fear of failure was the driving factor behind all of my doubts, as soon as I recognised that’s what was triggering the doubt I pushed forward.

The fact is, if you want things to change you have to do something about it. Staying in my corridor wasn’t working. I felt stuck in life, demotivated and ultimately very bored. I would rarely push myself out of my comfort zone and give something a go, therefore nothing changed. The moment, and I really do mean the moment, I began facing my fears and having the courage to try new things my whole world changed.

It’s wasn’t some magical feeling, where you feel like you’re on top of the world and can do anything (not at the start anyway). I felt terrified, constantly doubted my decisions and was wondering if I’d just wasted a few hundred pounds of our hard earnt money on something I was going to give up on. However, I kept going. If I failed I would try again, as ultimately all failure is, is a lesson.

“You bought partially premade decking slabs which cost more than anticipated. Next time consider looking for used wood and making your own from scratch. You’ll learn more and save money.”

“You didn’t support the wood when you were cutting it so when it got weak it splintered the end. Next time, balance it between two equally high supports.”

“Okay, you sawed your finger so maybe next time buy some gloves.”

I’m still a novice when it comes to gardening and DYI, but I have learnt a huge amount in such a short space of time. I didn’t look at any of my mistakes as failures, I looked for the lesson in them.

A story I find inspiring is one of Mandy Harvey. She is a singer and songwriter who at the age of 19 lost her hearing. Mandy had every right to give up and accept the hand she was dealt, but instead she began to practise and learn again. Now, she’s not only a professional singer and songwriter, but also has a book and has several tours where she speaks about the hardship she overcame.

In her book, Sensing the Rhythm, she speaks about how most people stay inside their own boxes, their comfort zones, similar to the corridors Ant Middleton describes. She describes how she went through a period of feeling very low and her life and dreams had fell apart. However, one day her dad asked her if she’d like to sing along to him playing guitar. Naturally, she thought it was a crazy idea because she was deaf and things wouldn’t be necessarily be able to. However, from that, she was able to see a world of possibilities open up for her again as she was able to sing along and keep in tune and rhythm. Mandy recognised she wasn’t hopeless in her situation; she could change it.

Mandy goes on to talk about saying yes when the time is right. If she’d said no to joining her dad in what seemed like a hopeless cause she may have never climbed out of her box and grown as a person, opened that new door out of her corridor.

Since I made it my mission to work on my own self development, I have pushed myself towards saying yes and opening myself to new experiences. More recently, I have not let fear of failure dictate what I can and can’t do.

I thought I was going to fail miserably at my garden, but I’ve done a good job that I’m proud of and have learnt a lot – I’m now progressing onto making some garden furniture.

It’s not fully done yet, but I’m proud of the progress made so far!

I thought I’d fail at my first interview for a job as historically I’ve never made it when I’ve looked to pursue my dream, but this time I passed it. I learnt from my previous experiences and used them to inform me this time round.

I had the courage to step out of my comfort zone and the resilience to take the positives from my failures. I honestly believe progression leads to happiness, which is why so many of us are unhappy as we feel stuck. Don’t let fear of failure stop you from growing as a person. The more you fail, the more you’ll learn and grow.

Sure, it may be uncomfortable and you may mess up, but next time round you’ll do better. I have had some awful experiences failing but I wouldn’t change them. I have learnt a lot and I’m beginning to feel happier as I’m not the same person I was a year ago, even a few months ago. The idea of failing may be terrifying, but the idea of never trying and letting your life drift by you, that is what is truly scary.

Things turn out best, for people who make the best of the way things turned out

John Wooden, American basketball players then Coach

Learning

Finding a balance in life

River_1

It can be difficult to know what to do some days; sometimes you feel like there is so much to get done and not enough hours in the day, at other times you have nothing to do and filling the void of nothingness in your day can be daunting. This blog post is going to look at what you can do to find a better balance in your days and feel more content with how you’ve spent your time.

PACE Yourself

Play time is an important element to factor into your day; doing something that gives you a sense of enjoyment. Whether you enjoy going out with friends and family (albeit virtually at the moment with current Covid-19 lock down measures) or reading a good book, it is important to have time in your day that is just for you. You don’t need to necessarily be achieving anything or have an aim to what you’re doing, you are there to enjoy the experience.

For people like me who are very goal orientated and struggle to relax, knowing what to do to relax can be a challenge in itself. Something I have found helpful is to, at the end of every day, write down 3 things you did that you enjoyed that day and rate them on a scale of 1-10. My observations are below:

I worked past 5pm because I was enjoying my work

Scale: 7/10

I contributed work towards my blog

Scale: 8/10

I watched an episode of a documentary about Michael Jordan and  found it inspirational

Scale: 9/10

 

From this, you can begin to look at what you enjoy doing the most and start to plan time into each day for these activities. You won’t always be able to fit them in each day, but it’s important you try to keep as much balance as possible.

For me, I really enjoyed writing. However, I did not enjoy stressing about what to write about. So, I made a conscious effort to not set myself any goals for writing a blog post. I told myself that I may not even publish the post, that it was just for me to write and reflect on how I was feeling. When you take your focus away from all your goals and things you need to do and just focus on the experience of doing what you enjoy, it’s a moment of complete bliss.

Achievement is the next thing we’re going to look at. For many people, whether you’re goal orientated or not, it is important to feel like you have achieved something. From my personal experience, I need to constantly be achieving something every day to feel like I’m progressing forward. If I don’t, I feel very low and demotivated. However, people often make similar mistakes when trying to find what gives them a sense of achievement:

  • They look online at suggestions other people make, such as doing the washing up or tidying the house but those suggestions aren’t personal to them
  • They set unachievable goals for the day and feel demotivated when they cannot meet them

Similar to understanding what makes you happy, it’s also important to understand what is important to achieve for you personally. You may have a big end goal of earning lots of money by 30/working your way up to your dream job/going from being a complete slob to keeping the house perfectly tidy and that’s okay. However, you need to identify smaller, more achievable tasks you can complete to get closer to your goal. I began to write down 3 things each day that I did that helped with my sense of achievement that were personal to me, as small as they were.

I did the washing up and brought some washing up from downstairs

Scale: 8/10

I ate in line with my diet

Scale: 8/10

I wrote part of this blog post in HTML instead of using the normal viewer

Scale: 9/10

 

It may not seem like you’re achieving much, but slowly you are performing behaviours that are moving you closer toward your goals. Something as simple as keeping the kitchen tidy has done me a world of good with feeling less stressed. Slowly but surely, I am becoming less of a slob. Try to plan small amounts of time in your day to complete these activities.

Care for yourself. It is so easy to become flustered and lose track of your routine. Weekends/time off work can be particularly challenging as there is not a set routine you need to follow. You may choose to sleep in, but then become overwhelmed with guilt for not making use of the morning. You may treat yourself to a bar of chocolate but feel like you’ve failed at eating healthy for that day. You may go out for a walk but cut it short because you feel tired and feel like you’ve let yourself down.

Let yourself off the hook for those times; often they are indicators that you do not have enough balance in your life. It is okay to not meet every goal in your day; you can get back on track by focusing on your next one or reassessing and considering if you need a bit more ‘me’ or ‘achieve’ time. Beating yourself up about missing targets is that negative voice in your head trying to hold you back, but that isn’t you. Be kind to yourself.

Energy to achieve your goals or to engage with things you enjoy can sometimes be challenging. There will be days where you don’t feel like doing anything or feeling positive, however by keeping to your plan and doing it your mood will improve.

I had an awful day a few weeks back, where I had decided “Today is a write off” and that I didn’t have any energy to write a blog post. I began to lay down and close my eyes to escape from my reality but pushed myself to go outside and sit in the sun. Initially, I felt rubbish and couldn’t see how sitting outside was going to help my mood. However, I put on an audio book (something I enjoyed listening to) and laid there listening to it. After a few minutes, I felt the tension in my shoulders go as I just enjoyed the experience of relaxing.

Half an hour later, I sat up after having listened to enough of my book and pulled out my laptop and began writing my blog post. I actually wrote my best blog post to date and ended the day feeling so positive and like I’d overcome a big hurdle. I would never have managed it if I’d let myself accept that nothing was going to be accomplished that day.

It’s important in life to find a good balance that works for you between caring for yourself and achieving your goals. If you swing too far one way you may feel stressed and anxious all the time, or too far the other you may feel low and depressed. Reflect on each day as it comes and build a plan that works for you, one you know you will make you feel happy and will bring a sense of achievement to your days. Pace yourself, you can do this.

This blog post is based off of a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy PACE plan I’ve been trying to implement, you can find a link to it here.
Self Reflection

Failure and Depression

Fear
“The darkness is coming. It yearns for life, hungers for it – like a pack of wolves on a hunt. But she’s not stopping. Not this time.” – Hellblade, Senua’s Sacrifice. The drawing is of an anime I love, Ajin.

Do you ever have those moments where you find out some new information, a missing piece in the puzzle of how you’re going to conquer your depression and you feel so motivated and in control?

An idea someone shares with you, a book you read, song lyrics, a blog you read online…

You think to yourself “Yes, this is me. That idea has filled in a gap for me, something that I didn’t know about myself previously that now I understand. Now I know this I can finally make a change and get myself out of this.”

So, you chuck on your sports clothes and go out for that run. Or you grab a pen and paper and start to write that book or draw that picture you’ve wanted to do so long now. You feel great but you hit your first hurdle, this is harder than you anticipated. You begin to notice a weight pressing down on your shoulder, as if a hand lay rested of it; you shrug it off. You push through it as you are in control and you know you can achieve your goal.

A thought crosses your mind “See, it’s just the same as before. You’re still struggling. You haven’t found the answer; you’re never going to make it out of this… it’s too hard.”.

You struggle to refocus on what you’re doing, working toward the better you, but the weight becomes overwhelming. You’re no longer carrying just a hand on your shoulder, but a full body collapsed over you. Every step you take on your run, every word you go to write, every line you go to draw has the extra weight pushing through it. You feel exhausted and give up, you’ve failed… again. Things will never change.

I’ve had my fair share of experience with the feelings of failure and like you’re stuck; never able to take steps forward, only back. Every time I tried something new or tried to push myself to follow through on a goal I so desperately wanted to achieve, I would fail. It would hit me hard and I would feel like I was sinking further and further away from where I wanted to be.

Negative thoughts started to seep in and take control. It had been so long since I was able to achieve something worthwhile that I felt like being a failure was who I had become. I felt like I had lost who I used to be, someone who was highly motivated and could achieve anything I put my mind to. Instead, I found myself in a hole I kept trying to jump out of. However, every time I tried to jump and didn’t make it the weight of my fall just deepened the hole. I felt like I was doomed to repeat the process for the rest of my life; this is who I was now as much as I tried to fight the idea of it.

However, one day I started watching a reality show on TV: SAS Who Dares Wins. I remember watching Ant Middleton talk about his struggles but how you just have to push through them. I quickly Googled his name and noticed he had a book out (now two books out) and several interviews where he speaks about failure.

The big things that stop us in life stop us from achieving is failure and fear. The fear, woom! Okay, we won’t even go there, challenge it because like you said, once you get past that and you feel like you’ve got that sense of achievement. Even if it’s a small sense, even if you fail but you learn something about yourself. You’re going to grow therefore you re-attack, you re-expose. And then you’re going to learn something that’s what life is about is this small progression in the right direction in life. You want to be doing that till the day you die because that’s what your purpose in life.

Ant Middleton , Paracelsus Recovery interview

I had never really considered failure this way, as a necessary part of life to learn from and grow as a person. Failure always had such negative associations with it. I never used to tell people I was going for a job interview as if I didn’t get it I didn’t want to be seen as a failure; I didn’t want my shame to be compounded by people telling me “Sorry you didn’t get it, I’m sure you’ll get the next one!”.

I would choose easy things to draw as I didn’t want to highlight areas in my skillset that are weak. If I tried to do a more challenging drawing and failed, I would feel horrible and retreat back to my comfort zone so no one could see the limitations of my skill. Or I wouldn’t draw at all. I would switch on my PS4 and play a game, something I knew I was good at. I choose the easy option.

A lot of people who shy away or they have the easy option and they choose the easy option and therefore, you will not build resilience if you do that. The easy option is something in life that is presented to us on a plate where if you decide to step off that path to challenge yourself that’s where you build up resilience and ultimately you expose who you are, you expose your emotions and you learn to deal with them, that’s what resilience is, it doesn’t have to be climbing Mount Everest, being in a special boat service, being in a special forces, being in the military. It is about taking on the challenges that will challenge you and test you.

Ant Middleton , Paracelsus Recovery interview

Historically I never reflected on what I could learn from my failures. I would fail at something and attribute that to myself; I was a failure. However, by doing that I never took the time to reflect on what I did well and what I could improve on. I would take one step forward toward my goal, but then two steps back as I would feel like I was back to square one and it would put me off trying again.

However, Ant Middleton describes failure as a journey. You take one step forward and you may fail, but now you’ve been there and got that experience. You may not have done it right the first time, but the next time you go for it you will be able to draw from your previous experience. If you’ve taken the time to reflect on what you’ve done well, but more importantly on what you can improve on you can learn from that. You’ve been down this road; you know the way and you recognise the wrong turn you made last time. This time you can avoid it and you may end up taking another wrong turn, but then the next time you try you’ll know to avoid that road too. However, if you don’t reflect on your negative experiences, all that experience is lost.

When you take the negatives in your life and use them to build a narrative of who you are, often self-hatred comes soon after. You become trapped in your own narrative and punish yourself for your failures and shortcomings. The easy option becomes your natural response to every situation. When you start to feel uncomfortable or feel people may see you for the failure you are you retreat further into your safe zone, but with that comes unhappiness. You become a prisoner to your own fear and failure so those dreams you have become just that, dreams. That comparison to where you are now and where you want to be only build on your unhappiness. You become stuck.

Stuck is where I found myself for many years, however at some point I decided enough is enough and began to put myself in uncomfortable situations, it was awful. I would fail and feel humiliated and retreat back into my comfort zone. However, I would then push myself again… and again… and again. Until I got to the point where if I recognised myself backing away from a situation as I was scared of failing, I would make myself do it.

From doing this and learning from my negative experiences, I have grown massively as a person. I used to be scared of picking up the phone and making a call, now I won’t think twice about doing it. I may feel anxious about doing it, but I will do it. I would never have become a trainer where I had to talk in front of a group of people (first couple of times doing it were horrible). I wouldn’t have started up this blog, I would be paralysed by my fear of failure and what people might think.

More recently I’ve learnt that this mindset can also be applied to smaller, everyday things. Such as making the decision to attempt a drawing instead of watching some TV. Or going to the gym and trying out the weights section instead of shying away and not achieving what I wanted to in the gym.

When you put yourself out there and try to better yourself or your quality of life, you will hit roadblocks and feel like you’ll never make it to where you want to be. Hitting that block is nothing to be ashamed of. This is a journey and it is the first time you’ve been down this route; no one expects you to know what you’re doing or where you’re going. I can’t promise some people won’t form their own judgements that do not help you; however, I can promise you that they do not matter. All that matters is that you do not forget those failures and you keep trying. Everyone fails, but not everyone learns to use those failures to their advantage. Be open and honest with yourself about your failures, you can do this.

Garden
It took about 50 different photos to finally get one I was happy with. I nearly gave up after the first round of photos I took as I felt like I just wasn’t skilled enough to capture what I wanted. However, I kept trying and got a pretty nice snap out of it in the end. From the rotting and dying plant, grows a pretty flower.