Let’s face it, this is at the heart of why we’re waiting by the sidelines and don’t get up on the dance floor, isn’t it? Or if we did get it started, we put off doing the moves that we really need to make in our lives to get us where we want to be. We go to college and get a job because we know that is expected of us, but we’re not dancing to our own song.
Even the most successful face insecurity and anxiety when they go up on the dance floor and do their thing. And for a not so successful person, it can be worse.
All that anxiety and brain damage does you no good. It won’t give you the energy you need to live a rich and meaningful life. It won’t put fire in your belly. It just keeps you from living the life of your dreams. Or if you do overcome your nerves and get started, others begin to attack you and treat you differently. Old friends become jealous and you slip away from them.
Here are some tools and techniques to banish your “I’m a total failure” anxiety forever. You don’t need that heartburn, so let’s get rid of it.
Our Kind of Race is a Marathon
Our kind of personal growth is part of a larger category called the character ethic. The basic idea is that you grow yourself from the inside-out and build on time-tested principles and cultivate habits that will create a strong character.
By far, the most rewarding way to approach this way of life is as a marathon. Now I realise it’s a bit against what the media tell us to do, but think of your efforts as a marathon and not a sprint.
Remember to begin with the end in mind? (Lesson #1) You’re going to approach life with this mental map. You’ve thought more broadly about what’s important to you and you act in accordance with your values. You know how to invest in your emotional bank account by making and keeping a promise to yourself (Lesson #2), and when you align your goals with the map, you get where you have to go.
One of the nicest things about this “marathon” angle is that you can and should live life on your own terms. There’s no need for you to constantly compare yourself to others and worry that you’re falling behind. You’re not living your life so you can impress others. You’re getting up on the dance floor and you’re doing your thing.
You’re here to learn more about yourself. You’re in it for the long run. Here’s the great, Wizard of Oz secret about living a fun and meaningful life:
It’s totally okay to make mistakes.
We’re often taught to cover up our mistakes. At school, we hide our poor test scores from our friends because we see ourselves as a failure. It’s very dangerous to think this way, but that’s how the school system works. Don’t make mistakes, get good grades, and look and act perfect so you can land an interview and get a job.
It’s mentally exhausting. Not to mention, dangerous behaviour. When we judge our own self-worth from a piece of paper, we’re never going to be good enough.
So, what’s the antidote? Be open about your mistakes. Take responsibility for them. Tell your co-worker or your teacher that: “Hey, I made a mistake, I’m sorry about that, but this is what I’ve learned from it and this is how I’ll prevent it from happening again.”
I hereby give you permission to screw up as long as you still stay on the dance floor. Being “perfect” is an illusion that your family, school, and friends feed into you. It doesn’t exist. You think it protects you, but it actually stops you from getting up on the dance floor.
(This is not easy advice for me to give. I’m a perfectionist, and read books like The Gifts of Imperfection for fun. But this is something you need to know, so I have to control my perfectionist tendencies and give you the straight dope.)
Effort, Not Perfection
Effort is king in your everyday life.
You have to practice something several times before you can learn from your mistakes and become better. If you’re born a natural genius with a photographic memory, then you have a major problem. Effort seems pointless (it’s something that “normal” people do), and so you ignore to practice.
I get sad when I see this because you’re throwing away your talent. You’re not doing your thing.
On the other hand, if you practice your skills and do it with joy, even if the performance is far from perfect, you’ve done a terrific job.
Become obsessed with effort. Take something you enjoy doing and then show up and do the work. Practice for hours and watch your inner genius grow. Don’t let any stupid excuses get the better of you. Whatever you do, keep at it. Remember Malcolm Gladwell’s rule in Outliers: it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in any field.
(The article you’re reading right now took me about two hours to write, so I feel pretty good.)
It’s not that you’re dumb or lazy. You’re just scared. You’re scared to succeed and do your thing. 80% of success is showing up!
No, Really, I Hate to Fail
OK, so you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to impress others and it’s okay to make mistakes.
Does the thought of getting up on the dance floor still make you sick to your stomach?
No problem at all.
Let me remind you of a terrific resource called relationships. It’s easy to think you have to do everything on your own (otherwise you’re not “good enough”), but of course that’s not true.
We all need to share our ups and downs with someone. Friends are hard to come by, but you know it when you’ve found them. Great friends are there when you need them the most, and they help you get up on the dance floor. You make each other dance.
The article you’re reading today would not have been possible without my friends. I’m an extrovert and I love to chat with them about my ideas and thoughts about life. They inspire me to challenge myself and give me a healthy kick-in-the-butt when I need it the most. We all need friends to help us stay accountable and cheer us on.
Who are your friends? If you need help with this, check out the post How to Choose Your Own Party Crew.
You might also consider getting a personal mentor. A lot of successful people have them. Not because they don’t have great friends, but because it saves them time and frustration. If you love this approach, it may be worth the investment (in both money and time – mentors can usually help you overcome mental roadblocks and get you results faster).
Not only that, but the results are often better, because it comes directly from the student.
Now I love personal growth and I think it has value on its own. But if you hate personal growth and struggle to get up on the dance floor, remember to turn to your relationships. I think you’ll find they fill your life with excitement and meaning.
Even if you use a mentor, you’ll still want to educate yourself and work for the long run. Usually, though, learning about a few principles here and there are a lot easier than to face the music all on your own.
Here are a couple of posts I’ve written with more tips on personal growth to make the journey more fun and rewarding:
And if you want to go ahead and get to know yourself better (and learn to enjoy your own company), try this exercise I wrote on Lifehack: Speed Dating – The Quickest Way to Get to Know Yourself.
The next lesson’s going to teach you all about how and why you must listen to your fears. See you then!
All the best,
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