As adults we are held back by our own fears, some of these are real but many are learned and some are labels placed upon us by others which we may not even deserve. These fears affect the way we behave and think. They curtail our decisions and even block us from achieving. So what’s really going on and how can we change things?
Very simply put our thinking is effected by previous experiences. If for example you were told at school that you were rubbish at sport, bit of a generalisation but it happens, then when anyone asks you about sport you believe, rightly or wrongly that you are no good at sport. Now as an adult you might realise that that’s not necessary true and even try to convince your own thinking to alter and be more sensible.
Maybe you tried some positive self-talk, telling yourself that of course you’re no Mo Farah or Usain Bolt but you are hardly no good at sport at all. I mean you ride a bike in the park with the kids and even ran a 5k race once. But still you tend to think of yourself in general as rubbish at sport – that positive thinking clearly isn’t working is it?
Instead of trying to convince yourself you’re not as bad as all that you could start considering worst that could happen. Say for example if you are asked to join the local cycle club. Do you worry you will be no good, always last, holding everyone else up? Do you think you are just not a natural? In reality unless you try you wouldn’t know where your level of ability is. Once you know that, you can discover what you still need to learn or what you need to practice at to get better. Instead of thinking how you could embarrass yourself or look like a fool. Think about how you could try, possibly improve and even become rather good at cycling. You just need to overcome that first fear, negative thinking could be holding you back.
Stretch your thinking to accept when you try you may fail
You need to stretch your thinking, not from the “what I can’t do” to “what I can do”. Consider what you could try and do over and above your current abilities. Accept that when you try you may fail. Failure is part of trying, if you never fail at anything then you have never pushed yourself beyond your current abilities.
Much as when a baby first learns to walk and falls over, you will need to try and sometimes you will fall over. The trick, like the baby, is to not be even bothered by these small stumbling blocks but to stretch your thinking beyond the failure to what is possible. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again until you do achieve.
Stretch yourself to try a new way of thinking. Rather than think of the barriers and what you could fail at consider ways in which you could try, see the trying as much as the achievement as the final destination.
High achievers must have stretchy brains
I don’t know if this is true but it seems to me that people who achieve a lot must also fail a lot. They must go through teething problems to accomplish their aims. Yet something in them pushes them to keep going even when they hit stumbling blocks, or in the eyes of others, fail. They must have a stretchy brain which says what shall I try next and how shall I approach this differently? It would seem they are not deterred by failure but spurred on by it, encouraged to try again.
I was once told by a client, when an idea we had for their business failed, that we were one less failure away from success. To him each time we failed we knew that wasn’t the right idea so the right idea must still be out there to be found. Working with him was a breath of fresh air, I was never worried to say if something failed instead seeing it as a positive step towards achieving the final goal.
This stretchy thinking of his rubbed off on me, I now try to look at what I have learnt from the failure to help me find the right path to success. Dwelling on failures has no benefit. However ignoring failure isn’t good either. It is important to review failures and consider what went wrong, not to beat yourself up but rather to learn from the experience and stop yourself from doing the same again.
Here is a lovely video about people achieving against the odds. Maybe these people benefitted from stretchy thinking, I hope you do too.