How much have you achieved?

I often ask clients to name something about themselves they’re proud of – almost everybody finds it difficult unless they’re prompted.

Your confidence can be so easily shattered and there’s the habit we have of not wanting to look boastful but I believe we’ve been conditioned to think that only the really big things can count as achievements.

All the talent shows like BGT, all the crushed participants who aren’t the winner. All the players who get knocked out of Wimbledon before the final (or in it!), all the Olympic athletes who don’t get golds – are they under-achievers? Are all eyes so firmly fixed on winning that all the work and success that went before gets overlooked?

Yes, of course we should have big goals and strive to do our best but we should also have small goals on the way to the big ones and we should revel in the sense of achievement that reaching them gives us. It all helps motivate us along the way and all the small achievements add up.

How much effort is enough to qualify? Who decides whether the objective is sufficiently commendable to count? Whose praise or approval do we need to make us feel we’ve succeeded?

You can assess your own achievement – did you put your best efforts into it? Did you improve on previous performance? Have the results (not necessarily final ones) moved you in a direction that is positive? (You’ll notice I don’t say “the right direction”.) If you can say “yes” to these questions, then congratulate yourself! Recognise your achievement and enjoy it!

Tip: Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that, if you did it, it can’t be that difficult and therefore isn’t much of an achievement.

When fear gets in the way.

Sometimes it’s only the fear of looking like a coward that pushes me into doing challenging things. And then, once I’ve done them, I look back and wonder why I was so worried.

We have to learn what to be frightened of for survival purposes and this leaves us open to absorbing other people’s irrational dread of all kinds of things. When we warn children “Be careful of .....!” or “Mind you don’t fall/hurt yourself/break your neck etc!”, however well-intentioned, we hedge them round with trepidation that can cut them off from experiencing excitement and achievement. We limit their capacity to grow.

Thinking too much about what can go wrong is an effective way of paralysing yourself.

Certainly it makes sense to have contingency plans in place. But that means not simply thinking about what can go wrong but also what you’re going to do if it does.

What are some of the things you really want to try? What’s the worst case scenario if you do? What can you do about it if it actually happens?

Arguably, one of the most unpleasant consequences is in some way to lose control of what’s going on and be dependent on someone or something else’s decisions. So the purpose of having a Plan B is to give yourself the reassurance of knowing in advance how you’re going to regain control and recover the situation. Knowing how means understanding that you can and that means that your fears shrink to manageable proportions.

Tip: Once you’re happy with your plans to deal with whatever goes wrong, make a point of taking the other extreme and visualise how your life will be when it all goes right. Give yourself a clear and detailed picture of success to work towards.

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