Part two-Addressing your fears
Self-Discipline module -4
All of us want to succeed in our undertakings. Any initiative that we take can have different results according to the context, time, place and people as well as our intelligent investment in it. The possibility of a result different from what we expect can be paralyzing for some. Some may take it as an opportunity for learning and developing new skills. Others may shudder at the thought of new initiatives and are up for more failures. “Anything happens because it can happen in the given context and level of consciousness”. Change of behavior calls for dealing with issues that cause it from another level of consciousness. This module probes into your attitudes towards possible consequences of your undertakings.
Develop your Self-Discipline
Addressing your fears
Fear of failure
Before You Begin!
The information in this section is accompanied by exercises that involve writing. Although each exercise is different, some general instructions apply to all of them:
Be brief, no more than 15 minutes per exercise.
Be specific, name names.
Be honest, only you will see your responses. After completing each exercise, read over your responses and ask yourself how you feel as you read them. Then, if you are even remotely concerned about privacy, immediately destroy what you wrote.
Important:Don’t just think about the exercises; actually write your responses. Don’t let Hyde talk you out of doing the exercises. It is enormously important that in addition to your intellect, you involve your physical motor system in this part of your self-discipline program. The physical act of writing activates and involves your physical motor system, thus incorporating more of your whole self into the self-discipline process.
Moreover, the point of the exercises is to get you to explore your feelings about certain attitudes that commonly subvert self-discipline. Your doing the exercises will provide you with invaluable insights about when, where, and from whom you might have picked up these feelings and attitudes.
Knowing the past sources of your current thoughts and feelings is important because thoughts and feelings lead to behavior, and behavior, in turn, leads to thoughts and feelings. All aspects of your self are connected. These exercises were designed to simultaneously incorporate your feelings, thoughts, and behavior into your self-discipline development program. The more parts of yourself you involve, the more committed you’ll be.
Dealing with yourFear of Failure
Most of us have experienced fear of failure. It’s a common psychological phenomenon. In fact, study after study has shown that the greatest obstacle to personal success is fear of failure. Do you find it surprising that even though we all want success, our first concern is not to fail? Indeed, we all harbor fears regarding failure. What most of us don’t realize, however, is that these fears
are based on a self-defeating misconception.
Most people erroneously regard any failure as an accurate evaluation of their worth. That’s why many of us don’t pursue certain desires. The pain of past failures linger in the dark corners of our subconscious, never far away; always lurking, ready to remind us of the emotional pain and the worthless feelings that resulted from a perceived past failure.
Why do we view failure as terrible? We do so because psychologically we tend to connect the failed endeavor to our self-esteem. We don’t separate the task from ourselves. “The task failed, so I’m a failure,” we subconsciously tell ourselves.
We forget to tell ourselves that there’s no such animal as a failure; no zoo in the world has a caged specimen. Sure, a person can fail at a particular task or project. But a person cannot be a failure. Moreover, a person can fail at the same task numerous times yet not be a failure as a person.
The fictitious horrors of failure that are etched into our brains subvert our ability to exercise self-discipline in many of life’s arenas. And therein lies what we really fear about failure: Humiliation!
Consider:Writer Lillian Hellman, after having written a successful play, The Children’s Hour, then wrote another play, Days to Come, that was severely rejected by audiences and critics. The play was immediately mothballed. Taking the play’s failure personally, Hellman was so emotionally devastated that she couldn’t write another play for two years. Even after she eventually wrote one, she rewrote it nine times. Moreover, throughout a long and brilliant career, Hellman never got over the pain of that failed play. Many years later she wrote of the humiliation she felt as audience members walked out of the theater during the doomed play’s opening night performance. In varying degrees, we all react to our failures as did Lillian Hellman. Rather than view them as evidence of experimentation and growth, we humans tend to experience failures as blows to our self-esteem.
Now consider: During its experimental phase, Edison’s light bulb flopped hundreds of times. Did this make Edison a failure? Of course not. Edison saw each failure as taking him one step closer to success. Indeed, because of his attitude regarding failure, he was able to draw on the power of self-discipline in order to persevere. Edison’s experience with the light bulb graphically demonstrates the absurdity of linking failure to self-esteem. I suppose we could say that Edison saw the light.
Our egos have been trained by society, schools, and parents that to fail is something about which we should be ashamed. Consequently, in growing up we grew more reluctant to attempt anything at which we were unsure of succeeding; our subconscious thought became “If I fail, I’ll look like a fool.”
Because this thought process goes on subconsciously, we are not aware of its powerful influence on our behavior. But regardless of any task we attempt, when this belief is in operation our power of self-discipline lacks the full force and support of our entire personality. We’re like a six cylinder engine operating on just four cylinders.
What are the personal results of such a scenario? Because of this type of thinking, it is easier for many persons to continue compulsive eating, drinking, or smoking rather than risk the self-imposed humiliation that accompanies an unsuccessful attempt to change.
Or consider the procrastinating religious who can’t get himself/herself to promptly perform the tasks required in his/her ministry. In many such cases, fear of failure is operating. He fears losing face; so he subconsciously tells himself that if he fails, it won’t be quite so humiliating if he hasn’t fully devoted himself. “After all,” he subconsciously tells himself, “I wasn’t really trying.”
This same twisted, subconscious logic operates within students who can’t get themselves to study or complete assignments on time. Ironically, while this attitude provides a pseudo-shield from the self-imposed humiliation involved in failure, it also plays a significant role in most failed enterprises. For unless one fully invests oneself, one’s chosen task suffers.
Before self-discipline can be employed, fear of failure must first be accepted, then shown up for the subconscious saboteur that it is. When we drag fear of failure out into the light, we’ll find that humiliation is at its foundation. We, therefore, must continually remind ourselves that failure is not humiliation unless we make it so in our own minds. Failure can be viewed as a stepping stone rather than a tombstone. Once this reality is fully accepted, fear of failure loses its power to sabotage our self-discipline.
The point: Subconsciously, we all link failure to humiliation. Fear of humiliation hampers our ability to make a strong commitment to our chosen endeavors, the big stuff and the little stuff. Commitment is a necessary ingredient of self-discipline.
The following exercise will bring you into contact with your own subconscious feelings about failure and humiliation. These feelings affect you emotionally, intellectually, and even physically more than you probably are aware.
Now that you know the inhibiting power of fear of failure, you can see the necessity of minimizing that power. The formula for reducing fear of failure lies in your refusing to link failure to self-esteem.
For when you perceive failure not as a tombstone, but as a stepping stone to success, you immediately multiply your power of commitment; this automatically strengthens your power of self-discipline.
Remember: Failure is a stepping stone, not a tombstone.
Exercise #1 – Exploring Fear of Failure
The following exercise is designed to help you discover your hidden concerns and emotions regarding fear of failure. You will explore three past experiences that you perceived as failures, mistakes, or just dumb behavior. Recall these three experiences from any area of your life: work, love, leisure, etc. The only rule here requires that these situations or events must be the most embarrassing and most humiliating experiences that you can recall.
You will be tempted to take all of these three experiences from a recent time in your life because you still consciously feel their sting. But, do not. Instead, take two of them from your earliest memories. Explore your childhood. This will give you an awareness about how, when, and where your attitudes and beliefs about failure originated.
Like ghosts, past failures haunt us. Indeed, past experiences do affect our present behavior. By writing down your worst experiences, you’ll be giving these ghosts concrete form. Then you can confront them squarely. This will be your first step toward freeing yourself from their influences.
Note: Be honest. Spend no more than fifteen minutes on this exercise. And, yes, it will be difficult to write down these experiences. Hyde will be peering over your shoulder and giving you a load of reasons to simply think about it rather than write it. So for you to feel hesitant and uncomfortable represents a common reaction. If, however, you forge ahead you’ll be astounded by the results.
As you write take notice of yourself both physically and emotionally. Physically: Do you clench your teeth? Do any of your muscles tighten? Your stomach muscles? Neck muscles?
Do you notice any changes in your breathing rhythm? Faster? Shallower? Emotionally: Do you re-experience the hurt? Do you feel frightened? Angry? Hostile? Embarrassed?
Again, it is important that you take note of your reactions as you complete each of the exercises throughout this self-discipline program. Your reactions will give you valuable insight into how much your current behavior is subconsciously affected by the past experiences you recalled.
Start writing NOW
Before you continue:
Did you actually write the exercise? If your answer to this is “NO,” then you just had an encounter with Hyde and you were manipulated. Please don’t continue until you have taken the few minutes necessary to complete the preceding exercise.
For prayer and reflection: Gen. 3.4. The original sin of the first parents was their ceding to the temptation to become like God even ignoring that they were created beings in the garden of Eden. The tendency to be almighty in one’s life and to be in super control of all that is happening in and around oneself is to become a monster in one’s own life and that of our dear ones. Our life can be celebrated within our reality of being creatures and limited beings. How does your faith support you to enjoy and celebrate your vocation as a child of God without dethroning God and take His seat in your life?
Home work to be sent: Write one paragraph about how it was for you to do the above exercise and what have you learnt about yourself.