We are often our own worst enemies when it comes to doing something new, difficult, or adventurous. We are often adept at listing scores of reasons not to try; I’m too old, I’m not talented enough, I don’t have time or money, etc. When it comes down to it, these are derivatives of three fundamental and common excuses:
1. I don’t believe in myself.
2. I’m afraid to fail.
3. I don’t really want it.
Here we’ll talk about fundamental excuse #1. I’m hardly unique for thinking that self-belief is important. That much is considered common sense. But simply saying you should believe in your self is like saying you should just start being happier just because I said so. The question here is “what/who exactly are you believing in?” If you’ve done things you’re proud of, this may be less of a problem - your life experience has shown you that you are someone who deserves to be believed in. But what if you want to do something that’s completely beyond your current abilities, or worse yet, what if you’ve never done anything you’re proud of? While I would argue that the latter is more a matter of one’s own negative self-perception or an overly self-critical evaluation, we need to be able to believe in our own potential. I prefer to use the term “The Future You.”
To an incredible degree, you can either empower the Future You to do great things, or to set up a roadblock every bit as effective as a brick wall. Your brain is an amazing thing, and when it’s on your “side,” it can make some pretty incredible things happen. The opposite is also true. So how do you get your own brain on your side? Easy – you tell it who the future you is and what he or she can do. OK, maybe it isn’t quite that easy. You need some sort of plan and you need to do some work, but compared to getting your brain on your side, those are just details. But to get your brain on your side, you need to believe completely in the Future You. One way to do this is to determine if there is any precedent for what you want to do. If someone has done it before then in most cases so can you.
Here’s a technique I use. I think of a person that has done the thing I want to do. I then make a list of all the ways we are the same and a list of all the ways that we are different. I then look at the list of the ways in which we are different and ask myself two questions. First, is this an important difference? If not, I cross it off. Second, I ask “how I can overcome the difference?” Can I train harder, work smarter, or come up with a different solution? This is where you need to become a creative problem solver. I then come up with a plan on how to cross these things off the “different” list and decide that there’s no reason I can’t do the same.
A great example of using a precedent to decide that you can do something is the “Kill the Bear” scene in the movie The Edge http://bit.ly/1iuIE9k. If you haven’t seen the movie, all you need to know is that Anthony Hopkin’s character has used precedent to decide what’s possible, and persuades Alec Baldwin to believe the same. When I fall into a moment of self-doubt, I say out loud “what one man can do, another can do” to remind myself to believe in the Future Me.
In a future post I’ll talk about fundamental excuse #2 and will describe why you should love to fail.
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