The power of failure

It’s a word which we associate with all things negative. Failure. And it’s one which we are generally told to banish from our thinking, from our vocabularies, because failure represents all that we don’t want to think about. We fail to succeed because we fear failure, we don’t take that next step because what if we fail? We might even have had it used against us – “you’re a total failure,”. Or perhaps even used it against someone else.  
And yet failure plays as much of a part in our daily lives as success. Not because we ourselves are failures, but because it’s simply the case that life isn’t one success after another after another.  
It’s a fact that you aren’t going to succeed at everything you try. It may be because of outside circumstances, or it may be because you’re not as equipped to achieve that goal as you could be, or it may simply be because your life is meant to take a different path, one which might become apparent in time.  
Even the most outwardly successful people aren’t successful at everything, but we look at their success and judge ourselves against it, and hence we consider ourselves to have failed.  
But what if you could look at the things you have failed to achieve as experiences to draw on and take you forward, rather than using them as barriers which hold you back from trying again?  
What if you could look at the goals which you want to achieve, and recognise that you might not actually be able to achieve them in the way you thought, but that won’t mean you’ve failed, it will simply mean you have to find different ways of getting what you want, or perhaps even finding different things to want?  
It’s not a failing to accept that sometimes, things won’t turn out the way you wanted them to.  
If all we ever had to do to achieve was to believe in success no-one would ever fail. While self belief is important, that self belief needs to include the ability to believe that whether you succeed or not, you can still move forward.  
Fear of failure is powerful, but being able to see failure as a part of life from which we can learn and move on is even more so.  

Facing fear before leaving it behind you

Most of us are afraid of something, the dark/spiders/dogs/buzzy flying insects, whatever it is we all know that feeling when we encounter the source of

Our fear, the inability to walk past it, or to look at it, or to anticipate it, most importantly, the desire to avoid it.  For my own part, I am afraid

Of flying, but perhaps more on that in a minute.

But there is another type of fear, a less visible type, which we often dress up as something else, but which we allow to hold us back none the less.  I’m

Talking about emotional fear.  Fear of failure, of consequence, sometimes even fear of the unknown.

This fear can so often be a barrier to the changes we want to make in our lives, because the more we fear, the less likely we are to move forward, or to

Take the risk that the fear may become a reality.

Emotional fear is different to physical fear in so much as that it’s not visible in the same way.  But we do react to it in the same way by refusing to face it or to engage with it, by avoiding situations which may mean facing up to those fears.

When looking at physical fear it’s easy to ask a number of questions which point to the reasons why and how we can overcome that fear.  Emotional fear is no different, it just sometimes means that we need to look a little deeper to find the reasons and the way forward.

When confronting a fear the questions I would ask are:

What are you afraid of?

Why are you afraid/where has the fear come from?

What do you think is going to happen?

How likely is it to happen?

What will happen if you don’t confront your fear?

and perhaps most importantly:

How could you overcome your fear and move forward positively?

In the first five questions, we generally have the answers if we think about it.  But the answer to the last question can seem impossible, because fear

Can be all consuming.

So if we were to take a physical fear such as my fear of flying, the questions would be easily answerable:

What am I afraid of?  Flying.

Why am I afraid?  Because an aeroplane is thousands of feet in the air and the ground is a long way down.

What’s the worst that can happen?  The plane could plummet from the sky to the earth or the ocean below killing me and everyone else on board.

How likely is it that the plane will crash?  Well in truth it’s fairly unlikely; I am far more at risk from getting into a car.  But flying is still my fear.

What would happen if I don’t confront this fear?  I will never get to see the world, and many life experiences would be lost to me.

We’ll leave the final question for now, because in order to get to the answer there is still the fear to explore.

The physical fear is often more easily explored because the reasons are often more obvious.  A fear of dogs or insects may stem from having had a bad experience for instance, and once you are able to deal with that experience you can work with the fear to overcome it.  Although that’s of course not always the case.

But with emotional fear the reasons behind it often stem not so much from an actual experience, but from other factors which lead to the fear.

You may have a limiting belief which is making you fearful of taking that step to move forward.  Or perhaps you have taken the words of someone in your life to heart which has made you fearful of change, fearful that you may not be able to succeed.  The reasons are wide and varied, and may need exploration to help to firstly put the reasons behind you in order to face the fear and eliminate or reduce it so that you can move forward.

So in answer to the last question how can you overcome your fear? Face the fear.  Face the things that make up your fear, then move past them into the change while leaving the fears behind you.

And once you have been able to move forward, the fear will become less significant, because the positive change will outweigh the negative that is the fear.

When it comes to physical fear the process is of course different, because physical reasons for fear are often more visible than emotional ones.  But it is still possible to face those fears with a positive outcome.  I will probably always have some fear of flying.  But my desire to see the world is something which causes me to face it every year, and as such I have learned to deal with it for the time I have to.  My life would be less enriched for not having seen some of the world.  My fear brings nothing positive, and therefore I let the positive overcome the negative.

Let your desire for change be stronger than your fear of it, face the fear and move forward into positive change.

It’s not failure it’s deferred success

So many of the things we do in life have been equated to being on a journey that it’s become almost too predictable. We see talk on reality TV shows about people’s “journey” from where they’ve come from to where they are now or even where they’re predicted to be in the future. And so it’s something which people are almost too used to hearing now, and perhaps because of that they don’t think like that any more. Except that defining and achieving our goals are very much like a journey, because while we can plan it, travel can in fact still be unpredictable, and can throw obstacles in our path. And as much as being on a delayed train or a bus can leave us feeling deflated and frustrated, so failing to achieve our goals on the targets we set for them can leave us feeling deflated and even as if we’ve failed. Except it’s not failure, it’s deferred success, just as long as we don’t give up when things don’t quite go according to plan. Imagine you have a journey planned. You’re going to go out somewhere, the objective of your journey is to reach a place, perhaps to see someone, perhaps to go for a meal, perhaps just to go sight-seeing. You know the route you need to take to get there, you’ll be going on public transport, a bus from home to the train station, followed by a train, then another bus or perhaps an underground train, and a walk at the other end. So you set off from home to catch the bus to the station. You get on the bus, and at the stop before the station the driver announces that the next stop is closed, so you have to get off the train a stop early and walk to the station. This extends your trip by ten minutes, and as you walk on to the platform, the train you were hoping to catch is just leaving. Now you have to wait another fifteen minutes for the next train. The next train arrives and you’re finally on your way, until just outside the station the train stops and the train manager announces that due to a signal failure you will be delayed for an unspecified amount of time. You’re now becoming impatient. You’d planned to be somewhere, you are meeting someone, and you already know what you’re going to do when you get there. But at the moment it doesn’t look like you’re actually going to get there, and you have no idea what to do about it. Perhaps you should just give up and go home, but then you won’t get to do what you had planned, and after all, you’ve been looking forward to this for ages. Besides, you’re sitting outside the station, you’re not in a position to go anywhere right now anyway. After what seems like hours the train finally starts moving again and you pull into the station. You quickly get off and run down to the underground where you realise that the line you meant to take is actually closed. Another obstacle preventing you from getting where you’re planning to go, and the frustration increases. You quickly check for an alternative route, and although it will take you slightly out of your way, you get on a different underground train and change at a different station, and eventually you reach your destination. Just a short walk now and you’ll be there. Your destination is in sight as you walk out of the underground station, and so is the group of protesters and the police roadblock which is blocking the way. How did this happen? How have you managed to get this close and still you can’t get to where you want to be. You can see it, and yet you can’t get to it. It would be so easy just to turn around now and get back on the underground train and go home. You could come here another time after all. But you know you probably won’t. So you wait it out for a bit until the protesters are moved on their way and you can finally walk to your destination. And as you walk through the doors you realise that even though the journey wasn’t smooth, the end result was that you’re now where you wanted to be all along and you can begin to enjoy the experience. Having a goal can be just like that. When we set our goals we generally know what it is we need to change or do to achieve those goals, and generally we know what obstacles we need to overcome and we try to find a way to overcome them. But sometimes unforeseen obstacles come up, and those can seem like they’re barriers to achieving our goals. They’re not, they may be temporary obstacles, but the key is to find a way to overcome them, or to wait until they have passed, and then we can continue down the road of achieving the goal, the end result. If you set a timescale to achieve your goal and you haven’t achieved it by then that doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it just means you haven’t succeeded yet. Once you start out on your journey to achieve your goal every step gets you a step closer to achieving it. And the closer you get to achieving it the less worthwhile it would be to give up and go back. What are the obstacles to your goals and how can you overcome them? And how can you find ways around the unforeseen obstacles which may come into the equation from time to time? Continue reading

Don’t rely on others to validate your self worth

Often we talk about how the negative reactions and criticisms of others can impact on our personal feelings about ourselves. When exploring the concept of limiting beliefs it’s very easy to see how someone else’s negative perceptions and comments can make us feel negatively about ourselves.  After all, if someone tells you that you’re not good enough, then they must surely believe that you’re not good enough, so there must be an element of truth in that, and therefore you might start to believe it.


Except that’s not the case. Because people are individuals, what they think or feel about other individuals is largely down to their own personal opinions and beliefs.  Just because someone tells you you’re not good enough at something doesn’t mean that you’re not – it means that they think you’re not.  But what is important is what you think.


It’s very easy to tell someone that the negative beliefs of others usually have to do with their own feelings and that as such they should be able to find a strategy to ignore those negative comments and instead focus on how they themselves feel, work on all the positives and build a positive feeling of self belief.


But there is an element of the beliefs of others which we rarely address, and that is positive belief/opinion. Because no-one really wants to see positive validation as negative, yet it has the potential to be.


We all seek positive validation from others. We all want others to tell us we’re great, that we do what we do well, that they believe in us.  And of course we should take those comments as positive, just as we take the negative ones as negative.


But we should always be aware not to live by the positive comments of others, because we cannot always rely on them being there. And the more you rely on something, the harder it is to deal with it when it isn’t there.


I’ve had numerous conversations with friends about self belief and confidence, and they’ve started out from the point of saying “you’re a coach, you can tell people that they’re great and make them believe in themselves.” I even had one who told me that they wanted to be a coach because they believed that people needed telling not to be so negative about themselves.


It’s true that I could tell someone that they’re great, and of course, if I think someone is great at something then I would tell them that in my personal opinion. But I wouldn’t want them to rely on my reassurance to uphold their belief in their own abilities.  The way I have explained this to friends is like this:


Someone could come to me seeking to improve their confidence. They may have limiting beliefs which may or may not be down to the opinions/comments of others.  And I could tell them to ignore those beliefs, to believe in themselves, because they’re great, I believe they’re great and they must go away and remember that they have been told by me to believe the positives not the negatives.  And the client goes away and holds on to the self worth I have given them.  They tell themselves that because I have told them they are good at what they do that must be believed, and they believe it.  Then next week they come back and I reiterate the positive things I said to/about them last week, and for the duration of our coaching relationship their self belief improves, or so it seems.


And then the coaching sessions come to an end and the client goes on their journey armed with the knowledge that they’re a new positive person because i told them so. Except next week they won’t be back to have that belief confirmed, nor the week after, or the week after that.  And what happens then when the negative beliefs start to come back is that they no longer have the validation they had held on to to override their negative beliefs, and they slip back into a state of lack of self worth they were in when they came to me in the first place.


The key for me is to arm people with the tools to validate their own self worth rather than relying on others to uphold it.


Being given positive comments/compliments by people is a fantastic feeling. But it is one which we cannot rely on, because there is never any guarantee that those positive influences will be around at the time we most need them.


The realisation that you are good at what you do, that you know you are a great person, that you are confident in your own abilities in spite of what other people think is very empowering.  And finding the ability to recognise that in yourself is priceless.  And while the positive comments from others will of course add to your positive feeling, if you already believe in yourself, when there are times those positive validations are lacking you will still be empowered by your own self worth and confidence.  And when negative comments threaten your confidence, you can still hold on to the power of your realisation of self worth.


Don’t rely on others to validate your self worth, find the tools to find it in yourself.

resolve to Succeed

Happy New Year.


It’s that time again when we all make resolutions to change something in our lives.  Maybe you want to lose weight, or give up drinking, or smoking, or find a job, or move house, the list is endless.


Lots of people make New Year’s resolutions, but the problem is that so often those resolutions have one thing in common – the inability to stick to them.  I’ll go one further in fact, and say that the one thing about New Year’s resolutions is that people wonder how long they can stick to them almost before they’ve started.


So what is the point in making a resolution when you know there’s not much chance you’re going to stick to it?


There are numerous articles out there talking about how quickly resolutions are broken, numerous people declare they are not making any resolutions because they won’t stick to them.  So in fact, the general idea of making a resolution at New Year is that one resolves to fail at whatever it is you want to succeed at.


If you believe that you will fail then you most likely will, because you’ve already started out from a negative mindset.  So why not instead resolve to succeed.  If you don’t feel that you can jump on the New Year’s resolution bandwagon, then why not just look at the things you want to achieve in the next weeks/months/year and aim to succeed in achieving those things.


Nobody wants to fail, but we are conditioned to set ourselves up to do so, especially if everyone else around us believes they will fail as well.  But you can set yourself up to succeed by firstly getting rid of the idea that there’s no point bothering to make a resolution because you’ll never stick to it.


Instead think of what it is you really want to achieve.  Not because of the pressure to have something, but because of what it is you have in your mind to want to achieve, and then start to think of the goals you need to set in order to achieve it.


The changes you want to make aren’t for the New Year, they’re for you.

who limits your beliefs?

Have you ever thought about where your negative beliefs come from?

So often we believe that we can’t do or achieve something, yet we rarely think about where that belief comes from, when in fact it often comes not from us, but from another source, someone close to us perhaps.

I have written before about limiting beliefs, where our own beliefs about ourselves can hold us back from the things we want to achieve. Believe that you can’t do something, and it’s likely you will never do it, not because you actually can’t, but because your belief that you can’t stops you from even trying.

But what happens when it’s not actually you that doesn’t believe in you, but someone else? What happens when that someone else projecting heir beliefs of you back on to you, until you too start to believe them? After all, if someone else says you can’t, then it’s likely that you can’t, right? especially if that someone is someone close to you, like a family member, a parent, a partner, someone you trust to have your best interests at heart, therefore you don’t consider that they actually are a negative influence on your beliefs.

We allow others to influence our self belief because we generally trust those people who are close to us. And yet so often it is those people who are closest to us who can do the most damage to our self belief. And in truth someone else can only have an impact on our self belief if we allow that to happen.

But think about a negative belief you have about yourself, think about how you feel about that, and then ask yourself where that belief comes from. Is it that you really believe it? or has that belief come from someone else? And if so, who is that person and why have you let them influence your beliefs? In short, who limits your beliefs?

The answer is simple, the person who limits your beliefs is you. Others may have an impact on how those limiting beliefs come about, after all none of us lives in isolation, and we will always take something from the influence of others. But the decision to allow someone else’s negative opinions and beliefs of us to hold us back is ultimately ours.

Once we recognise that we are the ones who hold ourselves back from achieving our goals, we can allow ourselves to not be influenced by the negative beliefs of others.

No-one else can hold you back, and you have the power to move forward.

Who limits your beliefs?