1. Do away with “if I knew …”
When we fail ourselves, having almost achieved success, it is self-sabotage. And it is not related to incompetence or failure. There is a particular type of behavior hidden behind repeated missteps that needs research. Common pitfalls include unrealistic advice and fruitless regrets. When we try to revisit history from the “if I could, if I knew” position, we create the impression that we are learning from the past, when in reality we are just chewing on troubles. This habit undermines the spirit and makes it difficult to comprehend the event.
It is much more useful to write down everything that we underestimated, overestimated or underestimated. Only a clear assessment of the situation will make it possible to draw conclusions that are useful for the future. Another trap, which it is better not to fall into, is magical thinking, which makes us (in an attempt to absolve ourselves of responsibility) to hope for “maybe”, to wear amulets, to believe in an inevitable fate …
2. Do not believe feelings of guilt
You can fear success as much as failure. For fear of offending parents, beloved, friends, we can unconsciously choose to go to the background, refuse to shine, so as not to be “better than others.” Psychoanalysts call this behavior “failure neurosis.” In this case, neurosis is not a consequence, but a cause of failure: we choose conditions that do not allow us to succeed, because at the thought of possible success we experience a neurotic feeling of guilt. It is generated by our unconscious: it satisfies a deep desire (I want my parents to continue to love me, so I cannot become an artist, because it would be unpleasant for them!) To the detriment of a conscious desire (I want to become an artist).
To discover this phenomenon, notice in yourself the feeling of awkwardness, your ambivalence in relation to the goal that you have set. Then ask yourself: why does this awkwardness appear when I think about the goal I want? Imagine the consequences of success (I’ll get what I really want) and failure (possibly breaking up with my family, which I don’t want). Then listen to your innermost desires: what do you want to get for yourself?
Such a study is difficult to carry out alone, so you can seek help from a specialist. It can also help release fear and guilt, unravel contradictions, and stop a recurring scenario.
3. Get out of procrastination
Procrastination is when we constantly postpone the moment of transition to action, and also when we miss opportunities. It also derealizes the goal that we have outlined for ourselves. Over time, the goal becomes something like a toy for the mind, creating a buffer between us and reality (“one day I will write a novel”), and prevents us from really investing in what we do (“I save my strength for the novel”).
The only way to get out of procrastination is to understand the fears behind it and force yourself to set precise dates for action. And then turn to relatives who are ready to support and, at our request, will “incite” to the implementation of the plan. Provision should be made for the measures we will take in case of difficulty. And for procrastinators, the tactic of small steps works great (when a complex case is laid out in simpler cases).
4. Be flexible
Excessive persistence and intransigence with reference to expert opinions or objective circumstances serve us in disservice. This behavior is often counterproductive. The one who takes a dominant, confident and closed position sends the interlocutor a negative message about himself (authoritarianism, lack of empathy, excess of self-confidence). With equal competences, we prefer to deal with someone who does not speak to us from a position of strength and is able to hear opinions different from his own. Being flexible means being able to understand many judgments, make additions to your proposal, admit your mistakes, and adapt theoretical positions to reality. These qualities are more likely to lead to success than unreasonable persistence.
To train flexibility, it is useful to set aside self-righteousness (even if there is every reason for it); accept someone else’s opinion as a possible hypothesis; admit that we can be wrong (and admit it out loud); take into account that the interlocutor may belong to a different culture than ourselves; and remember that the world as a whole is ambiguous and non-linear. And also show emotional and intellectual empathy, trying to understand the other’s point of view.
5. Treat yourself kindly
Being kind to yourself is not the same as being complacent or justifying yourself. It’s about looking at yourself and your actions the way you would look at the actions of your best friend. That is, openly, with understanding and a wish for well-being. Compassion and lack of condemnation do not interfere with understanding ourselves, seeing both strengths and weaknesses, but rather help, because we do all this without fear.
Every time we prepare to judge ourselves, evaluate resources and competencies, set goals, it is useful to turn to an inner friend. What will he advise me? What should you be afraid of? Where to get energy from? Ask specific questions and wait for specific answers so that the passion is balanced by a clear analysis of the situation.
This article is based on research published in Psychology Today. Their authors are psychologists Lisa Firestone, Andrea Bonior, Ellen Hendriksen.