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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

2 to 4 Tips for Handling Fear of Failure or Success: Plus the Lipizzaner Leap

I realized I have more to say about fear of failure or success or whatever it is I fear. Whether it’s fear of failure or fear of success I am dealing with - or you, Readers, are dealing with - there is a strategy  to help you cope. I think of it as dads' words of wisdom. That's "dads" plural, because I'm thinking of   my father-in-law (FIL), who once said to me, “This too shall pass.” This was in response to my unmitigated despair over some annoying toddler phase of my firstborn child. "This too shall pass" is not only a saying, it's also a cliché. These clichéd sayings slip by you unnoticed, or they did me, until at some point, all at once, they seemed to have real meaning. For instance, when my FIL said that, it struck with the full force of its meaning. Cuz you know clichés, they have a grain of truth - that old cliché. Well, all of a sudden, sproing! there was the truth, and it was less of a grain and more of a diamond. This, too, shall pass. God, was that comforting. 

So apply that one to your situation, if you’re afraid of failure. If you’re waiting for something to happen, like an editor to buy your proposal, apply it like a salve to your vivid imaginings of failure: there you are - failed - again - at some unspecified time in the future. You are humiliated, depressed, despairing. But it will pass. It shall pass. Therefore, be not afraid.

Don't like that one? Well how ‘bout this dad-ism: You’re putting the cart before the horse. This saying I attribute to my dad. It might be useful applied to fear of success. Now, I can’t actually recall a situation in which my dad said this, but he implied it often. It’s one of those, “Whoa, whoa, slow down kid, don’t get carried away with any great expectations” kind of statements, which I think he did make. Too many times, actually. But whatever. That’s why there is therapy. But my point, Readers, is that in this situation of waiting, fearing failure or success or whatever it is you might be fearing, remember that you are thinking about something that hasn’t happened. You haven’t yet succeeded. Nor, as in the previous worrying scenario, have you yet failed. You are simply putting the cart before the horse, which is stupid and will get you nowhere. Although if the horse is smart, she’ll make a Lipizzaner side-step and get the heck out of there. But that’s another story, about horses, not about carts and worries. 

Now’s the time to get all philosophical. If I’m not supposed to put the cart before the horse, and I’m supposed to remember that this, too, shall pass, how do I spend my time while waiting? My philosophy skews Buddhist, but I’m not going to tell you to meditate. No, this bit of advice is straight out of Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.  Here’s the trick.  “Shut the iron doors on the past and the future. Live in Day-tight compartments.”  He says this right in chapter one.

Live in day-tight compartments. That’s self-explanatory, don’t you think? Focus on today, now, not what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow. 

But I will go on. Because I think that living in day-tight compartments is easier said than done (cliche). What if, like me, you manage to shut a few worries in with you in your day-tight compartment? And they're buzzing around you like bees at a picnic? Well, be like Heraclitus and remember that you never step in the same river twice. Every moment is different. Remember this too shall pass, do not put that cart before that horse, and - remember that this is the only moment over which you have any control. So focus on this moment. This moment. Oops. That moment is now gone. Focus on this moment. The present moment. Over and over and over again. What are you doing right in this present moment? That is all that matters. The rest takes care of itself. 

So, once again, I believe I have touched on fear and anxiety and worry once or twice on this blog, and at least several times in this single post. But that is okay. I'm okay, and you're okay. I also think I've offered three tips for handling fear of failure, success, or life in general so far. And I'm not finished! More tips ahead!

Let's get back to that side-stepping Lipizzaner for a second. If the iron clad, day-tight compartments and the dad-isms don’t work for you, try side-stepping your worry. Distract yourself. Do something that keeps you busy and preoccupied and stops you from thinking about your worry. Write a blog post on a worry related to your worry, but less worrisome to discuss than your actual worry. This may or may not be a strategy I'm employing RIGHT NOW. 

Ahem. College. Daughter. Applications. Future. 

Now, in case you’re concerned about my worrying, Readers, do not be. I am now fully embracing my inner (and outer) worrier because the fact of my worrying proves I am a creative genius. According to this article:  

Okay, “proves” might be too strong a word. “Suggests” or “indicates” or “correlates with the possibility” or “somewhat points towards the possibility that” I am a creative genius. So that’s something, right? We'll get to that another day. I've been reading a lot about creativity of late. Meantime, here are some pretty, distracting horses:

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