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Your Best Self in the Face of Fear and Failure - Part 2

PART 2 - Published in Best Self Media

(This is the second of a three-part series. Click here to read Part 1.)

Practices are the fulfillment of the inner commitment to improving.

Habit is by default; mindful practice is intentional. We can prepare our minds to reliably draw out our best self by examining three thought habits and instituting three thought practices. The three thought habits that most influence our effectiveness in dealing with fear and failure are

  1. Our perception of our own capabilities

  2. The degree of personal control we believe we exert over our world, and

  3. What we credit for our failures and successes.

Confronted with an emotionally taxing family situation, I started almost every day with the big fear-based, lie-inspired belief, “I can’t.

I ended up proving I could. I knew I could under normal circumstances, but truly believed I wasn’t strong enough under the extraordinary duress I was experiencing.

I shifted my perception of my own capabilities. “I can’t.” was a lie, a habitual thought that was true for me and central to my belief system. Through practice, sometimes failing but more often succeeding, I was able to see my belief as a falsehood and replace it with “Oh, but I can. And, boy, can I!

Another habitual thought was, “I am under stress. I should be able to sleep late. My body is telling me it needs this cookie. I should listen to it.” Lies. I collapsed intuition with feelings (the same feelings almost always accompany the habitual lie). Honoring the lies merely resulted in indulgences and a $30 penalty — not self-nurturing at all! Oh, the mind is tricky.

When it comes to belief in having control over my life, the second thought habit that most influences our effectiveness in dealing with fear and failure, I rate myself high. I believe I have a strong degree of personal control. I don’t have a college degree, yet I worked my way up to become an executive and have led multiple companies. I excel in the most stressful phases of business: startups, rapid growth, and turnarounds. I am successful and happy. But, if one of my children are in pain, that confidence evaporates.

Put me in a situation where I have done everything I can think of but cannot spare my child from pain or the consequences of their own poor decisions, and watch my personal power plummet to the brink of helplessness and despair. And, of course, that is precisely what was happening during the Well Being Challenge. The urgent lie and habitual belief, “I have to fix this now!” joined “I can’t” to seize control of my thinking. What practices could possibly displace dread for what might happen in the future with peace of mind?

Remember how I had this daily practice to review my intentions for the year and journal on the absence or presence of love, joy, peace, gratitude, freedom, and curiosity each day? Here were a few of my intentions for the year that I reviewed each day:

  • Daily acknowledge that there is no such thing as inadequate. There is nothing that I need that is not available. There is nothing lacking in me.

  • The world is sufficient. Circumstances are sufficient. I am sufficient. There is nothing I don’t have enough or I am not enough of. When I think it is not enough or I am not enough, there is something I am not seeing and it is there, waiting to be discovered.

  • I want for my children to know and experience profound love, acceptance and support

  • I shall expand my capacity to be present and joyful

Isn’t it synchronous that I wrote these prior to starting the course? I stored my intentions as a note on my smartphone so they could always be accessed.

Here, the magic of repetition stepped in to do its part.

By reading my intentions every single day and reflecting on the absence or presence of love, joy, peace, gratitude, freedom, and curiosity every evening, my brain was rewiring itself.

Slowly but certainly, repetitive thought becomes belief. And belief becomes habitual and unquestioned. Rather than dwell in what-if scenarios, I practiced staying present. In the moment, there was no pain. Nothing to fear. The danger was only in my head. In my thoughts!

The last of the three thought habits that most influence our effectiveness in dealing with fear and failure is what we credit for our failures and successes. After years, I have learned that fear shows up before I have words for it. I am usually first aware of being edgy and having tension in my shoulders. Undetected, fear starts to influence my behavior. I start withdrawing socially. My communications are more guarded and less frequent. I am in my head more. Almost always, there is resistance to do things I know I should do, or plain neglect. I tell another lie, “It doesn’t really matter.” Or “I don’t have time.” I move on.

Fear of failure is gaining momentum, fueled by my denial. Then, I start fault-finding, which is not my usual state. This is a red flag for me. I am in the deeply grooved thought pattern of “It’s not my fault.” Without me even realizing it, I am looking for someone, something, some circumstance to blame. There is no power there. I am responsible for my successes and failures.

Then I catch myself. Oh. I am afraid of failing. Again. You see, the habitual patterns of fear-based thinking never really go away. The practice is to catch them and interrupt them, then redirect your attention to something fruitful.

My favorite way to redirect myself is to ask the question, “What are you going to do?” That puts me back in action, responsible for my success and my failures. I know it’s the only place my best self can emerge. My second favorite question is, “What experience do I want to create out there (my outer experience in the world) and in here (my inner experience)? The key is clarity. Get clear on what you want, then act.


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